IN THIS ISSUE
Feeling of Power Out from the Sun
ISAAC ASIMOV ARTHUR C. CLARKE
A tense novelette ab(
THE SECOND WORLD
NINE GREAT NOVELETTES from the first six years of
IF Magazine! Like T/ie f\r%t World of IF, which re-
ceived such enthusiastic response from science fic-
tion lovers all over America, here is a volume of
exceptional interest — nine long stories by Charles
Beaumont, James Blish, Phillip K. Dick, Gordon
Dickson, Charles L. Fontenay, James E. Gunn,
Raymond F. Jones, Bryce Walton and Robert
F. Young — devoted to a wide diversity of
science fiction entertainment. The printing
will again be a small one, so ask your news
dealer right now to save you a copy. Or,
if you prefer, send fifty cents to IF Mag-
azine, Kingston, New York, and a copy
will be mailed to you upon publication,
which shall be Jonuory 12th.
1'.''"' WJ/VJOt..' .%•'«,
All Stories New and Complete
Editor: JAMES L. QUINN
Assist. Editor: EVE WULFF
ASSASSIN by J. F. Bone 12
THE BARBARIANS by John Sentry 58
THE FEELING OF POWER by Isaac Asimov 4
THE HERO by Elaine Wilber 33
CONTAMINATION CREW by Alan E. Nourse 44
OUT FROM THE SUN by Arthur C. Clarke ' 77
SECURITY RISK by Ed M. Clinton, Jr. 82
THE STANDARDIZED MAN by Stephen Bartholomew 92
FEET OF CLAY by Phillip Hosklns 100
EDITOR'S REPORT 2
WHAT'S YOUR SCIENCE l,Q.? 43
SCIENCE BRIEFS 116
HUE AND CRY 118
A Scene from "Assassin" by Mel Hunter
IF is published bi-monthly by Quinn Publishing Co. Inc. Vol. 8, No. 2.
Copyright 1957 by Ouinn Publishing Co., Inc. Office of publication 8
Lord Street, BuffaloT N.Y. Entered as Second Class Matter at Post
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EDITORIAL AND BUSINESS OFFICES, KINGSTON, NEW YORK
Next (April) issue on sale February 12th
Mail has been piling up nicely on
the editorial desk in response to our
request for information about the
readers. Judging by a cross section,
(this means picking letters out of
the heap at random) we've got
readers from 12 to 74 — all with
stars in their eyes. Fields of en-
deavor now include musicians,
salesmen, lab technicians, pharma-
cists, test pilots, actors and one
prisoner, who writes that he "likes
to escape" with science fiction! To
find out why people read science
fiction read some of their letters in
Hue and Cry . . . and if you haven't
already done it, why not drop us a
vital statistic or two to help swell
Following through on our practice
of letting readers in on just what
authors do, we corralled the "mas-
ter" who's the lead-off man in this
issue. Seems as though all people
("without exception", he claims)
who meet Isaac Asimov for the first
time are startled to find him clean
shaven (except, of course for five
o'clock shadow) . For some reason
an immediate picture of a patriar-
chal type with a long white beard
(or at any rate a dignified Van
Dyke) rises unbidden when his
name is mentioned. Isaac has been
writing science fiction for 20 years;
but insists he started as a teen-ager
— he's still not that old. The whole
thing is even more demoralizing
when some great muscular hunk of
humanity boasts that he was born
in the same year that Asimov's first
story appeared! Of course, the re-
sounding title of Associate Profes-
sor of Biochemistry at Boston Uni-
versity, plus the fact that the man
has several learned textbooks to his
credit, may have a great deal to do
with this modern fable of "old man
A recent study concerning the ag-
gressive tendencies of authors held
at U.C.L.A., showed that there was
a definite correlation between per-
sonal aggressiveness and the inten-
sity of violence in the fiction these
men wrote. The least aggressive
people wrote the most consistently
violent tales, while those with ag-
gressive natures were much more
variable. Interesting sidelight on
the study was the fact that authors
tended to write of more intense
violence under stress from financial
Hydroponic tanks for feeding the
crew of a spaceship may be out-
moded before the first one is ever
installed! Scientists have discovered
that green plants secrete a deadly
carbon monoxide gas when in-
jured. And since no one knows just
what in space could or would cause
such "injury", researchers feel that
plants used as a source of food and
oxygen during space flight might
poison the spaceship's entire air
By this time the world is aware
that the Russians rushed their satel-
lite into space not so much for
benefit of the IGY as for propa-
ganda. Now the second '"sputnik"
is about due, and the Soviets prom-
ise it will carry much more instru-
mentation than "sputnik the first".
The second moon will rise to 560
miles and speed at 18,000 miles per
hour, same as the first, but will
weigh 400 or 500 pounds, accord-
ing to Dr. Blagonravov, who helped
develop the Russian satellite pro-
gram. It will broadcast intensity of
cosmic rays, temperature and air
density, whereas the first "moon"
broadcast bnly temperature. Wheth-
er "sputnik the second" gets up
there before the first American sat-
ellite does or not, we'll hold that
Vanguard sends up a better
"mouse trap", and if you are look-
ing for real estate on the moon,
don't get it from the Ruskies.
The first motion picture visualiza-
tion of Project Vanguard, the
launching and tracking of the
first American satellite, is being dis-
tributed. The four minute ani-
mated film is titled A Moon is Born
and is shown in color and black
and white. It includes the depiction
of the Minitrack and Moonwatch
phases of the project as well as the
use of an IBM computer for the
prediction of the moon's future po-
sitions. If your club, civic group or
school is interested in showing this
film, drop us a line and we'll send
you the name and address of the
We've had so many blasts, both pro
and con, about our quiz, that we
decided to explain our stand. Big-
gest noise against it comes from
those who feel that the page could
be used for more stories. Those in
favor, feel they're learning some-
thing — and to a man they're pretty
proud when they come up with a
good score. Now, a good one page
story is as rare as the Penny Black
of stamp collecting; and padding a
story so it will run over for an extra
page is against all our editorial in-
stincts. So why not give people a
chance to test themselves on what
they know about the world around
Last minute notes. . . . The by-
line John Sentry on this issue's
The Barbarians is a pen name for
what well known science-fiction
writer? . . . Don't forget The Sec-
ond World of IF! If you haven't
ordered one already, hang around
your newsstand and grab it the
minute it arrives. One hundred and
sixty pages of solid entertainment
without a single "wasted" page . . .
Look for an exciting new yarn by
Frank Riley called A Question of
Identity in our April issue — an en-
tirely new theme in science fiction
and definitely one to which we can
look forward. . . . And while we're
looking ahead, by all means look
for Arthur C. Clarke's newest, The
Songs of Distant Earth, in the June
issue. — ekw
Illustrated by Virgil Finlay
Graphitics was a startMngly new idea!
So revolutionary, in fact, it rocked the top army brass.
Imagine computing — without a computer!
JEHAN SHUMAN WAS used to
dealing with the men in author-
ity on long-embattled Earth. He
was only a civilian but he originated
programming patterns that resulted
in self-directing war computers of
the highest sort. Generals conse-
quently listened to him. Heads of
congressional committees, too.
There was one of each in the
special lounge of New Pentagon.
General Weider was space-burnt
and had a small mouth puckered
almost into a cypher. Congressman
Brant was smooth-cheeked and
clear-eyed. He smoked Denebian
tobacco with the air of one whose
patriotism was so notorious, he
could be allowed such liberties.
Shuman. tall, distinguished and
programmer-first-class, faced them
He said, "This, gentlemen, is
"The one with the unusual gift
that you discovered quite by acci-
dent," said Congressman Brant,
placidly. "Ah." He inspected the
little man with the egg-bald head
with amiable curiosity.
The little man, in return, twisted
the fingers of his hands anxiously.
He had never been near such great
men before. He was only an aging
low-grade Technician who had long
ago failed all tests designed to
smoke out the gifted ones among
mankind and had settled into the
iTjt of unskilled labor. There was
just this hobby of his that the great
BY ISAAC ASIMOV
programmer had found out about
and was now making such a fright-
ening fuss over.
General Weider said, "I find this
atmosphere of mystery childish."
''You won't in a moment," said
Shuman. "This is not something we
can leak to the first-comer. — Aub!"
There was something imperative
about his manner of biting off that
one-syllable name, but then he was
a great Programmer speaking to a
mere Technician. "Aub! How
much is nine times seven?"
Aub hesitated a moment, his
pale eyes glimmered with a feeble
anxiety, "Sixty-three," he said.
Congressman Brant lifted his
eyebrows, "Is that right?"
"Check it for yourself, congress-
The congressman took out his
pocket computer, nudged the
milled edges twice, looked at its face
as it lay there in the palm of his
hand and put it back. He said, "Is
this the gift you brought us here to
demonstrate. An illusionist?"
"More than that, sir. Aub has
memorized a few operations and
with them he computes on paper."
"A paper computer?" said the
general. He looked pained.
"No, sir," said Shuman, patient-
ly. "Not a paper computer. Simply
a sheet of paper. General, would
vou be so kind as to suggest a num-
"Seventeen," said the general,
"And you, congressman?"
"Good! Aub, multiply those
numbers and please show the gen-
tlemen your manner of doing it."
"Yes, programmer," said Aub,
ducking his head. He fished a small
pad out of one shirt pocket and an
artist's hairline stylus out the
other." His forehead corrugated as
he made painstaking marks on the
General Weider interrupted him
sharply. "Let's see that."
Aub passed him the paper, and
Weider said, "Well, it looks like the
Congressman Brant nodded and
said, "So it does, but I suppose any-
one can copy figures off a computer.
I think I could make a passable
seventeen myself, even without
"If you will let Aub continue,
gentlemen," said Shuman without
Aub continued, his hand trem-
bling a little. Finally, he said in a
low voice, "The answer is three
hundred and ninety-one."
Congressman Brant took out his
computer a second time and flicked
it, "By Godfrey, so it is. How did
"No guess, congressman," said
Shuman. "He computed tliat result.
He did it on this sheet of paper,"
"Humbug," said the general, im-
patiently, "A computer is one thing
and marks on paper are another,"
"Explain, Aub," said Shuman,
"Yes, programmer. — Well, gen-
tlemen, I write down seventeen and
just underneath it, I write twenty-
three. Next, I say to myself: seven
times three — "
The congressman interrupted
smoothly, "Now, Aub, the problem
is seventeen times twenty- three."
"Yes, I know," said the little
technician earnestly, "but I start by
saying seven times three because
that's the way it works. Now seven
times three is twenty-one."
"And how do you know that?"
asked the congressman.
"I just remember it. It's always
twenty-one on the computer. I've
checked it any number of times."
"That doesn't mean it always
will be, though, does it?" said the
"Maybe not," stammered Aub.
"I'm not a mathematician. But I
always get the right answers, you
"Seven times three is twenty-one,
so I write down twenty-one. Then
one times three is three, so I write
down a three under the two of
"Why under the two?" asked
Congressman Brant at once.
"Because — " Aub looked help-
lessly at his superior for support.
"It's difficult to explain."
Shuman said, "If you will accept
his work for the moment, we can
leave the details for the mathema-
Aub said, "Three plus two makes
five, you see, so the twenty-one be-
comes a fifty-one. Now you let that
go for a while and start fresh. You
multiply seven and two, that's four-
teen, and one and two, that's two.
Put them down like this and it adds
up to thirty-four. Now if you put
the thirty-four under the fifty-one
this way and add them, you get
three hundred and ninety-one and
that's the answer."
There was an instant's silence
and then General Weider said, "I
THE FEELING OF POWER
don't believe it. He goes through
this rigmarole and makes up num-
bers and multiplies and adds them
this way and that, but I don't be-
lieve it. It's too complicated to be
anything but hornswoggling."
"Oh, no, sir," said Aub in a
sweat. "It only seems complicated
because you're not used to it.
Actually, the rules are quite simple
and will work for any numbers."
"Any numbers, eh?" said the
general. "Come then." He took out
his own computer (a severely-styled
GI model) and struck it at random.
Make a five, seven, three, eight on
the paper. That's five thousand
seven hundred and thirty-eight."
"Yes, sir," said Aub, taking a
new sheet of paper.
"Now," (more punching of his
computer), "seven two three nine.
Seven thousand two hundred and
"Yes, sir." "^
"And now multiply those two."
"It will take some time," qua-
"Take the time," said the gen-
"Go ahead, Aub," said Shuman,
Aub set to work, bending low. He
took another sheet of paper and
another. The general took out his
watch finally and stared at it. "Arc
you through with your magic-mak-
"I'm almost done, sir. Here it
is, sir. Forty-one million, five hun-
dred and thirty-seven thousand,
three hundred and eight-two." He
showed the scrawled figures of the
General Weider smiled bitterly.
He pushed the multiplication con-
tact on his computer and let the
numbers whirl to a halt. And then
he stared and said in a surprised
squeak. "Great Galaxy, the fella's
The President of the Terrestrial
Federation had grown haggard in
office and, in private, he allowed a
look of settled melancholy to ap-
pear on his sensitive features. The
Denebian war, after its early start
of vast movement and great popu-
larity, had trickled down into a
sordid matter of maneuver and
counter-maneuver, with discontent
rising steadily on Earth. Possibly,
it was rising on Deneb, too.
And now Congressman Brant,
head of the important Committee
on Military Appropriations was
cheerfully and smoothly spending
his half-hour appointment spouting
"Computing without a com-
puter," said the president, impa-
tiently, "is a contradiction in
"Computing," said the congress-
man, "is only a system for handling
data. A machine might do it, or
the human brain might. Let me
give you an example." And, using
the new skills he had learned, he
worked out sums and products until
the president, despite himself, grew
"Does this always work?"
"Every time, Mr. President. It is
"Is it hard to learn?"
"It took me a week to get the
real hang of it. I think you could
"Well," said the president, con-
sidering, "it's an interesting parlor
game, but what is the use of it?"
"What is the use of a new-born
baby, Mr. President? At the mo-
ment, there is no use, but don't you
see that this points the way toward
liberation from the machine. Con-
sider, Mr. President," the congress-
man rose and his deep voice auto-
matically took on some of the ca-
dences he used in public debate,
"that the Denebian was is a war of
computer against computer. Their
computers forge an impenetrable
shield of counter-missiles against
our missiles, and ours forge one
against theirs. If we advance the
efficiency of our computers, so do
they theirs, and for five years a
precarious and profitless balance
"Now we have in our hands a
method for going beyond the com-
puter, leap-frogging it, passing
through it. We will combine the
mechanics of computation with hu-
man thought; we will have the
equivalent of intelligent computers ;
billions of them. I can't predict
what the consequences will be in
detail but they will be incalculable.
And if Deneb beats us to the punch,
they may be catastrophic."
The president said, troubled,
"What would you have me do?"
"Put the power of the adminis-
tration behind the establishment of
a secret project on human computa-
tion. Call it Project Number, if you
like. I can vouch for my committee,
but I will need the administration
"But how far can human com-
"There is no limit. According to
Programmer Shuman, who first in-
troduced me to this discovery — "
"I've heard of Shuman, of
"Yes. Well, Dr. Shuman tells me
that in theory there is nothing the
computer can do that the human
mind can not do. The computer
merely takes a finite amount of data
and performs a finite number of
operations upon them. The human
mind can duplicate the process."
The president considered that.
He said, "If Shuman says this, I
am inclined to believe him, — in
theory. But, in practice, how can
anyone know how a computer
Brant laughed genially. "Well,
Mr. President, I asked the same
question. It seems that at one time,
computers were designed directly
by human beings. Those were sim-
ple computers of course; this being
before the time of the rational use
of computers to design more ad-
vanced computers had been es-
"Yes, yes. Go on."
"Technician Aub apparently
had, as his hobby, the reconstruc-
tion of some of these ancient de-
vices and in so doing he studied the
details of their workings and found
he could imitate them. The mul-
tiplication I just performed for you
is an imitation of the workings of
The congressman coughed gen-
tly, "If I may make another point,
Mr. President — The further we
can develop this thing, the more we
can divert our Federal effort from
THE FEELING OF POWER
computer production and computer
maintenance. As the human brain
takes over, more of our energy can
be duected into peace-time pursuits
and the impingement of war on
the ordinary man will be less. This
will be most advantageous for the
party in power, of course."
"Ah," said the president, "I see
your point. Well, sit down, con-
gressman, sit down. I want some
time to think about this. — But
meanwhile, show me that multipli-
cation trick again. Let's see if I
can't catch the point of it."
did not try to hurry matters.
Loesser was conservative, very con-
servative, and liked to deal with
computers as his father and grand-
father had. Still, he controlled the
West European computer combine
and if he could be persuaded to
join Project Number in full enthu-
siasm, a great deal would have been
But Loesser was holding back.
He said, "I'm not sure I like the
idea of relaxing our hold on com-
puters. The human mind is a capri-
cious thing. The computer will give
the same answer to the same prob-
lem each time. What guarantee
have we that the human mind will
do the same?"
"The human mind. Computer
Loesser, only manipulates facts. It
doesn't matter whether the human
mind or a machine does it. They
are just tools."
"Yes, yes. I've gone over your
ingenious demonstration that the
mind can duplicate the computer
but it seems to me a little in the
air. I'll grant the theory but what
reason have we for thinking that
theory can be converted to prac-
"I think we have reason, sir.
After all, computers have not al-
ways existed. The cavemen with
their triremes, stone axes and rail-
roads had no computers."
"And possibly they did not com-
"You know better than that.
Even the building of a railroad or
a ziggurat called for some comput-
ing, and that must have been with-
out computers as we know them."
"Do you suggest they computed
in the fashion you demonstrate?"
"Probably not. After all, this
method — we call it 'graphitics', by
the way, from the old European
word 'grapho' meaning 'to write' —
is developed from the computers
themselves so it cannot have an-
tedated them. Still, the cavemen
must have had some method, eh?"
"Lost arts! If you're going to
talk about lost arts — "
"No, no. I'm not a lost art enthu-
siast, though I don't say there may
not be some. After all, man was eat-
ing grain before hydroponics and
if the primitives ate grain, they
must have grown them in soil.
What else could they have done?"
"I don't know, but I'll believe in
soil-growing when I see someone
grow grain in soil. And I'll believe
in making fire by rubbing two
pieces of flint together when I see
Shuman grew placating. "Well,
let's stick to graphitics. It's just
part of Xhp process of etherealiza-
tion. Transportation by means of
bulky contrivances is giving way
to direct mass-transference. Com-
munications devices become less
massive and more efficient con-
stantly. For that matter, compare
your pocket computer with the
massive jobs of a thousand years
ago. Why not, then, the last step of
doing away with computers alto-
gether? Gome, sir, Project Number
is a going concern; progress is al-
ready headlong. But we want your
help. If patriotism doesn't move
you, consider the intellectual ad-
Loesser said, skeptically, "What
progress? What can you do beyond
multiplication? Can you integrate
a transcendental function?"
"In time, sir. In time. In the last
month I have learned to handle di-
vision. I can determine, and cor-
rectly, integral quotients and deci-
"Decimal quotients? To how
Programmer Shuman tried to
keep his tone casual. "Any num-
Loesser's lower jaw dropped.
"Without a computer?"
"Set me a problem?"
"Divide twenty-seven by thir-
teen? Take it to six places."
Five minutes later, Shuman said,
"Two point oh seven six nine two
Loesser checked it. "Well, now,
that's amazing. Multiplication
didn't impress me too much because
it involved integers after all, and I
thought trick manipulation might
do it. But decimals — "
"And that is not all. There is a
new development that is, so far, top
secret and which, strictly speaking,
I ought not to mention. Still —
We may have made a breakthrough
on the square root front."
"It involves some tricky points
and we haven't licked the bugs yet,
but Technician Aub, the man who
invented the science and who has
an amazing intuition in connection
with it, maintains he has the prob-
lem almost solved. And he is only a
technician. A man like yourself, a
trained and talented mathemati-
cian ought to have no difficulty."
"Square roots," muttered Loes-
"Cube roots, too. Are you with
Loesser's hand thrust out sud-
denly, "Count me in."
General Weider stumped his way
back and forth at the head of the
room and addressed his listeners
after the fashion of a savage teacher
facing a group of recalcitrant stu-
dents. It made no difference to the
general that they were the civilian
scientists heading Project Number.
Tlie general was the over-all head,
and he so considered himself at
every waking moment.
He said, "Now square roots are
all fine. I can't do them myself and
I don't understand the methods,
but they're fine. Still, the project
will not be side-tracked into what
some of you call the fundamentals.
You can play with graphitics any
way you want to after the war is
over, but right now We have specific
and very practical problems to
THE FEELING OF POWER
In a far corner, Technician Aub
listened with painful attention. He
was no longer a technician, of
course, having been relieved of his
duties and assigned to the project,
with a fine-sounding title and good
pay. But, of course, the social dis-
tinction remained and the highly-
placed scientific leadei's could never
bring themselves to admit him to
their ranks on a footing of equality.
Nor did he, himself, wish it. He
was as uncomfortable with them as
they with him.
The general was saying, "Our
goal is a simple one, gentlemen ; the
replacement of the computer. A
ship that can navigate space with-
out a computer on board can be
constructed in one-fifth the time
and at one-tenth the expense of a
computer-laden ship. We could
build fleets five times, ten times as
great as Deneb could if we coidd
but eliminate the computer.
"And I see something even be-
yond this. It may be fantastic now;
a mere dream: but in the future I
see the manned missile!"
There was an instant murmur
from the audience.
The general drove on. "At the
present time, our chief bottleneck
is the fact that missiles are limited
in intelligence. The computer con-
trolling them can. only be so large
so they can meet the changing na-
ture of anti-missile defenses in an
unsatisfactory way. Few missiles, if
any, accomplish their goal and mis-
sile warfare is coming to a dead
end; for the enemy, fortunately, as
well as for ourselves.
"On the other hand, a missile
(Continued on page 115)
The aliens wooed Earth with gifts, love, patience and peace.
Who could resist them? After all, no one shoots Santa Clans!
BY J. F. BONE
Illustrated by Ed Emsh
THE RIFLE LAY comfortably in his hands, a gleaming
precision instrument that exuded a faint odor of gun oil
and powder solvent. It was a perfect specimen of the gun-
smith's art, a semi-automatic rifle with a telescopic sight — a
precisely engineered tool that could hurl death with pinpoint
accuracy for better than half a mile.
Daniel Matson eyed the weapon
with bleak gray eyes, the eyes of a
hunter framed in the passionless
face of an executioner. His blunt
hands were steady as they lifted
the gun and tried a dry shot at
an imaginary target. He nodded
to himself. He was ready. Carefulh'
he laid the rifle down on the mat-
tress which covered the floor of
his firing point, and looked out
throuarh the hole in the brickwork
to the narrow canyon of the street
The crowd had thickened. It had
been gathering since early morning,
and the growing press of spectators
had now become solid walls of
people lining the street, packed
tightly together on the sidewalks.
Yet despite the fact that there were
virtually no police, the crowd did
not overflow into the street'", nor
was there any of the pushing
crowding impatience that once at-
tended an assemblage of this sort.
Instead there was a placid toler-
ance, a spirit of friendly good will,
an ingenuous complaisance that
grated on Matson's nerves like the
screeching rasp of a file drawn
across the edge of thin metal. He
shivered uncontrollably. It was hard
to be a free man in a world of
It was a measure of the Aztlan's
triumph that only a bare half-
dozen police 'copters patrolled
the empty skies above the parade
route. The aliens had done this — •
had conquered the world without
firing a shot or speaking a word in
anger. They had wooed Earth with
understanding patience and super-
lative guile — and Earth had fallen
into their hands like a lovesick
virgin! There never had been any
real opposition, and what there
was had been completely ineffec-
tive. Most of those who had op-
posed the aliens were out of circula-
tion, imprisoned in correctional in-
stitutions, undergoing rehabilita-
tion. Rehabilitation! a six bit word
for dehumanizing. When those
poor devils finished their treatment
with Aztlan brain-washing tech-
niques, they would be just like
these sheep below, with the dif-
ference that they would never be
able to be anything else. But these
other stupid fools crowding the
sidewalks, waiting to hail their
destruction — these were the ones
who must be saved. They- — not the
martyrs of the underground, were
the important part of humanity.
A police 'copter windmilled
slowly down the avenue toward
his hiding place, the rotating
vanes and insect body of the craft
starkly outlined against the jagged
backdrop of the city's skyline. He
laughed soundlessly as the susur-
rating flutter of the rotor blades
beat overhead and died whispering
in the distance down the long
canyon of the street. His position
had been chosen with care, and was
invisible from air and ground a-
like. He had selected it months
ago, and had taken considerable
pains to conceal its true purpose.
But after today concealment
wouldn't matter. If things went as
he hoped, the place might someday
become a shrine. The idea amused
Strange, he mused, how events
conspire to change a man's career.
Seven years ago he had been a
respected and important member
of that far different sort of crowd
which had welcomed the visitors
from space. That was a human
crowd — half afraid, wholly curious,
jostling, noisy, pushing — a teeming
swarm that clustered in a thick
disorderly ring around the silver
disc that lay in the center of the
International Airport overlooking
Puget Sound. Then — he could have
predicted his career. And none of
the predictions would have been
true — for none included a man
with a rifle waiting in a blind for
the game to approach within
range . . .
The Aztlan ship had landed ear-
ly that July morning, dropping
silently through the overcast cover-
ing International Airport. It set-
tled gently to rest precisely in the
J. F. BONE
center of the junction of the three
main runways of the field, effective-
ly tying up the transcontinental
and transoceanic traffic. Fully five
hundred feet in diameter, the giant
ship squatted massively on the run-
way junction, cracking and buck-
ling the thick concrete runways
imder its enormous weight.
By noon, after the first skepticism
had died, and the unbelievable TV
pictures had been flashed to their
waiting audience, the crowd began
to gather. All through that hot July
morning they came, increasing by
the minute as farther outlying dis-
tricts poured their curious into the
Airport. By early afternoon, literally
hundreds of millions of eyes were
watching the great ship over a
world-wide network of television
stations which cancelled their regu-
lar programs to give their viewers
an uninterrupted view of the enig-
By mid-morning the sun had
burned off the overcast and was
shining with brassy brilliance upon
the squads of sweating soldiers from
Fort Lewis, and more sweating
squads of blue-clad police from the
metropolitan area of Seattle-
Tacoma. The police and soldiery
quickly formed a ring around the
ship and cleared a narrow lane
around the periphery, and this they
maintained despite the increasing
pressure of the crowd.
The hours passed and nothing
happened. The faint creaking and
snapping sounds as the seamless
hull of the vessel warmed its space-
chilled metal in the warmth of the
summer sun were lost in the grow-
ing impatience of the crowd. They
wanted something to happen.
Shouts and catcalls filled the air as
more nervous individuals clamored
to relieve the tension. Off to one
side a small group began to clap
their hands rhythmically. The little
claque gained recruits, and within
moments the air was riven by the
thunder of thousands of palms
meeting in unison. Frightened the
crowd might be, but greater than
fear was the desire to see what sort
of creatures were inside.
Matson stood in the cleared area
surrounding the ship, a position of
privilege he shared with a few city
and state officials and the high brass
from McChord Field, Fort Lewis,
and Bremerton Navy Yard. He was
one of the bright young men who
had chosen Government Service as
a career, and who, in these days of
science-consciousness had risen rap-
idly through ability and merit pro-
motions to become the Director of
the Office of Scientific Research
while still in his early thirties. A
dedicated man, trained in the bitter
school of ideological survival, he
understood what the alien science
could mean to this world. Their
knowledge would secure peace in
whatever terms the possessors cared
to name, and Matson intended to
make sure that his nation was the
one which possessed that knowl-
He stood beside a tall scholarly
looking man named Roger Thorn-
ton, who was his friend and inci-
dentally the Commissioner of Police
for the Twin City metropolitan
area. To a casual eye, their posi-
tions should be reversed, for the
lean ascetic Thornton looked far
more like the accepted idea of a
scientist than burly, thick shoul-
dered, square faced Matson, whose
every movement shouted Cop.
Matson glanced quizzically at the
taller man. "Well, Roger, I wonder
how long those birds inside are
going to keep us waiting before we
get a look at them?"
"You'd be surprised if they really
were birds, wouldn't you?" Thorn-
ton asked with a faint smile. "But
-seriously, I hope it isn't too much
longer. This mob is giving the boys
a bad time." He looked anxiously
at the strained line of police and
soldiery, "I guess I should have
ordered out the night shift and
reserves instead of just the riot
squad. From the looks of things
they'll be needed if this crowd gets
any more unruly."
Matson chuckled. "You're an
alarmist," he said mildly. "As far as
I can see they're doing all right. I'm
not worried about them — or the
crowd, for that matter. The thing
that's bothering me is my feet. I've
been standing on 'em for six hours
and they're killing me!"
"Mine too," Thornton sighed.
I'Tell you what I'll do. When this
is all over I'll split a bucket of hot
water and a pint of arnica with
"It's a deal," Matson said.
As he spoke a deep musical hum
came from inside the ship, and a
section of the rim beside him sepa-
rated along invisible lines of junc-
ture, swinging downward to form a
broad ramp leading upward to a
square orifice in the rim of the ship.
A bright shadowless light that
seemed to come from the metal
walls of the opening framed the
shape of the star traveller who stood
there, rigidly erect, looking over the
heads of the .section of the crowd
A concerted gasp of awe and ad-
miration rose from the crowd — a
ga^p that was echoed throughout
the entire ring that surrounded the
ship. There must be other openings
like this one, Matson thought dully
as he stared at the being from
space. Behind him an Army tank
rumbled noisily on its treads as it
drove through the crowd toward
the ship, the long gun in its turret
lifting like an alert finger to point
at the figure of the alien.
The stranger didn't move from
his unnaturally stiff position. His
oddly luminous eyes never wavered
from their fixed stare at a point far
beyond the outermost fringes of the
crowd. Seven feet tall, obviously
masculine, he differed from man-
kind only in minor details. His long
slender hands lacked the little fin-
ger, and his waist was abnormally
small. Other than that, he was hu-
man in external appearance. A wide
sleeved tunic of metallic fabric cov-
ered his upper body, gathered in at
his narrow waist by a broad metal
belt studded with tiny bosses. The
tunic ended halfway between hip
and knee, revealing powerfully
muscled legs encased in silvery hose.
Bright yellow hair hung to his
shoulders, clipped short in a square
bang across his forehead. His face
was long, clean featured and ex-
traordinarily calm — almost godlike
in its repose. Matson stared, fas-
cinated. He had the curious impres-
sion that the visitor had stepped
J. F. BONE
bodily out of the Middle Ages. His
dress and haircut were almost iden-
tical with that of a medieval cour-
The starman raised his hand —
his strangely luminous steel gray
eyes scanned the crowd — and into
Matson's mind came a wave of
peaceful calm, a warm feeling of
goodwill and brotherhood, an in-
describable feeling of soothing re-
laxation. With an odd sense of
shock Matson realized that he was
not the only one to experience this.
As far back as the farthest hangers-
on near the airport gates the tense-
ness of the waiting crowd relaxed.
The effect was amazing! Troops
lowered their weapons with shame-
faced smiles on their faces. Police
relaxed their sweating vigilance.
The crowd stirred, moving back-
ward to give its members room.
The emotion-charged atmosphere
vanished as though it had never
been. And a cold chill played icy
fingers up the spine of Daniel Mat-
son. He had felt the full impact of
the alien's projection, and he was
more frightened than he had ever
been in his life!
THEY HAD BEEN clever—
damnably clever! That initial
greeting with its disarming under-
tones of empathy and innocence
had accomplished its purpose. It
had emasculated Mankind's nat-
ural suspicion of strangers. And
their subsequent actions — so beau-
tifully timed — so careful to avoid
the slightest hint of evil, had com-
pleted what their magnificently
staged appearance had begun.
The feeling of trust had per-
sisted. It lasted through quarantine,
clearance, the public receptions,
and the private meetings with scien-
tists and the heads of government.
It had persisted unabated through
the entire two months they re-
mained in the Twin City area. The
aliens remained as they had been
in the beginning — completely un-
spoiled by the interest shown in
them. They remained simple, un-
affected, and friendly, displaying an
ingenuous innocence that de-
manded a corresponding faith in
Most of their time was Sf)ent at
the University of Washington,
where at their own request they
were studied by curious scholars,
and in return were given courses
in human history and behavior.
They were quite frank about their
reasons for following such a course
of action — according to their
spokesman Ixtl they wanted to learn
human ways in order to make a
better impression when they visited
the rest of Mankind. Matson read
that blurb in an official press release
and laughed cynically. Better im-
pression, hah! They couldn't have
done any better if they had an en-
tire corps of public relations special-
ists assisting them! They struck ex-
actly the right note — and how could
they improve on perfection?
From the beginning they left
their great ship open and un-
guarded while they commuted back
and forth from the airport to the
campus. And naturally the govern-
ment quickly rectified the second
error and took instant advantage of
the first. A guard was posted
around the ship to keep it clear of
the unofficially curious, while the
officially curious combed the ves-
sel's interior with a fine tooth comb.
Teams of scientists and technicians
under Matson's direction swarmed
through the ship, searching with the
most advanced methods of human
science for the secrets of the aliens.
They quickly discovered that
while the star travellers might be
trusting, they were not exactly fools.
There was nothing about the im-
penetrably shielded mechanisms
that gave the slightest clue as to
their purpose or to the principles
upon which they operated — nor
were there any visible controls. The
ship was as blankly uncommunica-
tive as a brick wall.
Matson was annoyed. He had ex-
pected more than this, and his frus-
tration drove him to watch the
aliens closely. He followed them, sat
in on their sessions with the scholars
at the University, watched them at
their frequent public appearances,
and came to know them well
enough to recognize the microscopic
differences that made them indi-
viduals. To the casual eye they were
as alike as peas in a pod, but Mat-
son could separate Farn from
Quicha, and Laz from Acana —
and Ixtl — well he would have stood
out from the others in any circum-
stances. But Matson never intruded.
He was content to sit in the back-
ground and observe.
And what he saw bothered him.
They gave him no reason for their
appearance on Earth, and when-
ever the question came up Ixtl par-
ried it adroitly. They were obviously
not explorers for they displayed a
startling familiarity with Earth's
geography and ecology. They were
possibly ambassadors, although they
behaved like no ambassadors he
had ever seen. They might be
traders, although what they would
trade only God and the aliens
knew — and neither party was in a
talking mood. Mysteries bothered
Matson. He didn't like them. But
they could keep their mystery if he
could only have the technical
knowledge that was concealed be-
neath their beautifully shaped
At that, he had to admit that
their appearance had come at pre-
cisely the right time. No one better
than he knew how close Mankind
had been to the final war, when the
last two major antagonists on Earth
were girding their human and in-
dustrial power for a final show-
down. But the aliens had become a
diversion. The impending war was
forgotten while men waited to see
what was coming next. It was ob-
vious that the starmen had a reason
for being here, and until they chose
to reveal it, humanity would forget
its deadly problems in anticipation
of the answer to this delightful
pvizzle that had come to them from
outer space. Matson was thankful
for the breathing space, all too well
aware that it might be the last that
Mankind might have, but the enig-
ma of the aliens still bothered him.
He was walking down the main
corridor of the Physics Building on
the University campus, wondering
as he constantly did about how he
could extract some useful knowl-
edge from the aliens when a quiet
J. F. BONE
voice speaking accentless English
sounded behind him.
"What precisely do you wish to
know, Dr. Matson?" the voice said.
Matson whirled to face the ques-
tioner, and looked into the face of
Ixtl. The alien was smiling, ap-
parently pleased at having startled
him. "What gave you the idea that
I wanted to know anything?" he
"You did," Ixtl said. "We all
have been conscious of your
thoughts for many days. Forgive me
for intruding, but I must. Your
speculations radiate on such a
broad band that we cannot help
being aware of them. It has been
quite difficult for us to study your
customs and history with this high
level background noise. We are
aware of your interest, but your
thoughts are so confused that we
have never found questions we
could answer. If you would be more
specific we would be happy to give
you the information which you
"Oh yeah!" Matson thought.
"Of course. It would be to our
advantage to have your disturbing
speculations satisfied and your fears
set at rest. We could accomplish
more in a calmer environment. It is
too bad that you do not receive as
strongly as you transmit. If you did,
direct mental contact would con-
vince you that our reasons for satis-
fying you are good. But you need
not fear us, Earthman. We intend
you no harm. Indeed, we plan to
help you once we learn enough to
formulate a proper program."
"I do not fear you," Matson said
— knowing that he lied.
"Perhaps not consciously," Ixtl
said graciously, "but nevertheless
fear is in you. It is too bad — and
besides," he continued with a faint
smile "it is very uncomfortable.
Your glandular emotions are quite
primitive, and very disturbing."
"I'll try to keep them under con-
trol," Matson said dryly.
"Physical control is not enough.
With you there would have to be
mental control as well. Unfortu-
nately you radiate much more
strongly than your fellow men, and
we are unable to shut you out with-
out exerting considerable effort that
could better be employed else-
where." The alien eyed Matson
speculatively. "There you go
again," he said. "Now you're
Matson tried to force his mind
to utter blankness, and the alien
smiled at him. "It does some good
— but not much," he said. "Con-
scious control is never perfect."
"Well then, what can I do?"
"Go away. Your range fortunate-
ly is short."
Matson looked at the alien. "Not
yet," he said coldly. "I'm still look-
ing for something."
"Our technology," Ixtl nodded.
"I know. However I can assure you
it will be of no help to you. You
simply do not have the necessary
background. Our science is based
upon a completely different philoso-
phy from yours."
To Matson the terms were con-
"Not as much as you think," Ixtl
continued imperturbably. "As you
will find out, I was speaking quite
precisely." He paused and eyed
Matson thoughtfully. "It seems as
though the only way to remove your
disturbing presence is to show you
that our technology is of no help to
you. I will make a bargain with
you. We shall show you our ma-
chines, and in return you will stop
harassing us. We will do all in our
power to make you understand ; but
whether you do or do not, you will
promise to leave and allow us to
continue our studies in peace. Is
Matson swallowed the lump in
his throat. Here it was— handed to
him on a silver platter — and sud-
denly he wasn't sure that he wanted
"It is," he said. After all, it was
all he could expect.
They met that night at the space-
ship. The aliens, tall, calm and
cool; Matson stocky, heavy-set and
sweating. The contrast was in-
fernally sharp, Matson thought. It
was as if a primitive savage were
meeting a group of nuclear physi-
cists at Los Alamos. For some un-
known reason he felt ashamed that
he had forced these people to his
wishes. But the aliens were pleasant
about it. They took the imposition
in their usual friendly way.
"Now," Ixtl said. "Exactly what
do you want to see — to know?"
"First of all, what is the principle
of your space drive?"
"There are two," the alien said.
"The drive that moves this ship in
normal space time is derived from
Lurgil's Fourth Order equations
concerning the release of subatomic
energy in a restricted space time
continuum. Now don't protest! I
know you know nothing of Lurgil,
nor of Fourth Order equations.
And while I can show you the
mathematics, I'm afraid they will
be of little help. You see, our
Fourth Order is based upon a
process which you would call Psy-
chomathematics and that is some-
thing I am sure you have not yet
Matson shook his head. "I never
heard of it," he admitted.
"The second drive operates in
warped space time," Ixtl continued,
"hyperspace in your language, and
its theory is much more difficult
than that of our normal drive, al-
though its application is quite sim-
ple, merely involving apposition of
congruent surfaces of hyper and
normal space at stress points in the
ether where high gravitational fields
balance. Navigation in hyperspace
is done by electronic computer —
somewhat more advanced models
than yours. However, I can't give
you the basis behind the hyper-
space drive." Ixtl smiled depreci-
atingly. "You see, I don't know
them myself. Only a few of the
most advanced minds of Aztlan can
understand. We merely operate the
Matson shrugged. He had ex-
pected something like this. Now
they would stall him off about the
machines after handing him a fast
line of double-talk.
"As I said," Ixtl went on, "there
is no basis for understanding. Still,
if it will satisfy you, we will show
you our machines — and the mathe-
matics that created them although
I doubt that you will learn any-
thing more from them than you
have from our explanation."
J. F. BONE
"I could try," Matson said
"Very well," Ixtl replied.
He led the way into the center of
the ship where the seamless hous-
ings stood, the housings that had
baffled some of the better minds of
Earth. Matson watched while the
star men proceeded to be helpful.
The housings fell apart at invisible
lines of juncture, revealing mecha-
nisms of baffling simplicity, and
some things that didn't look like
machines at all. The aliens stripped
the strange devices and Ixtl at-
tempted to explain. They had anti-
gravity, forcefields, faster than light
drive, and advanced design com-
puters that could be packed in a
suitcase. There were weird devices
whose components seemed to run
out of sight at crazily impossible
angles, other things that rotated
frictionlessly, suspended in fields of
pure force, and still others which
his mind could not envisage even
after his eyes had seen them. All
about him lay the evidence of a
science so advanced and alien that
his brain shrank from the sight, re-
fusing to believe such things existed.
And their math was worse ! It began
where Einstein left oflF and went oflf
at an incomprehensible tangent
that involved psychology and ESP.
Matson was lost after the first five
Stunned, uncomprehending and
deflated, he left the ship. An im-
pression that he was standing with
his toe barely inside the door of
knowledge became a conscious cer-
tainty as he walked slowly to his
car. The wry thought crossed his
mind that if the aliens were trying
to convince him of his abysmal
ignorance, they had succeeded far
beyond their fondest dreams!
They certainly had! Matson
thought grimly as he selected five
cartridges from the box lying beside
him. In fact they had succeeded too
well. They had turned his deflation
into antagonism, his ignorance into
distrust. Like a savage, he suspected
what he could not understand. But
unlike the true primitive, the emo-
tional distrust didn't interfere with
his ability to reason or to draw
logical inferences from the data
which he accumulated. In attempt-
ing to convince, Ixtl had over-
sold his case.
IT WAS SHORTLY after he had
returned to Washington, that the
aliens gave the waiting world the
reasons for their appearance on
Earth. They were, they said, mem-
bers of a very ancient highly
evolved culture called Aztlan. And
the Aztlans, long past the need for
conquest and expansion, had turned
their mighty science to the help of
other, less fortunate, races in the
galaxy. The aliens were, in a sense,
missionaries — one of hundreds of
teams travelling the star lanes to
bring the benefits of Aztlan culture
to less favored worlds. They were,
they unblushingly admitted, altru-
ists — interested only in helping
It was pure corn, Matson re-
flected cynically, but the world
lapped it up and howled for more.
After decades of cold war, luke-
warm war, and sporadic outbreaks
of violence, that were inevitably
building to atomic destruction, men
were willing to try anything that
wovild ease the continual burden of
strain and worry. To Mankind, the
Aztlans' words were as refreshing as
a cool breeze of hope in a desert of
And the world got what it
Quite suddenly the aliens left the
Northwest, and accompanied by
protective squads of FBI and Secret
Service began to cross the nation.
Taking widely separated paths they
visited cities, towns, and farms, ex-
hibiting the greatest curiosity about
the workings of human civilization.
i\nd, in turn, they were examined
by hordes of hopeful humans.
Everywhere they went, they spread
their message of good will and hope
backed by the incredibly convinc-
ing power of their telepathic minds.
Behind them, they left peace and
hopeful calm; before them, antici-
pation mounted. It rose to a cres-
cendo in New York where the paths
of the star men met.
The Aztlans invaded the United
Nations. They spoke to the General
Assembly and the Security Council,
were interviewed by the secretariat
and reporters from a hundred for-
eign lands. They told their story
with such conviction that even the
Communist bloc failed to raise an
objection, which was as amazing to
the majority of the delegates as the
fact of the star men themselves. Al-
truism, it seemed, had no conflict
with dialectic materialism. The
aliens offered a watered-down
variety of their technology to the
peoples of Earth with no strings at-
tached, and the governments of
Earth accepted with open hands,
much as a small boy accepts a
cookie from his mother. It was im-
possible for men to resist the lure of
something for nothing, particularly
when it was offered by such people
as the Aztlans. After all, Matson re-
flected bitterly, nobody shoots Santa
From every nation in the world
came invitations to the aliens to
visit their lands. The star men
cheerfully accepted. They moved
across Europe, Asia, and Africa-
visited South America, Central
America, the Middle East and
Oceania. No country escaped them.
They absorbed languages, learned
customs, and spread good will.
Everywhere they went relaxation
followed in their footsteps, and
throughout the world arose a real-
ization of the essential brotherhood
It took nearly three years of con-
tinual travelling before the aliens
again assembled at UN headquar-
ters to begin the second part of their
promised plan — to give their
science to Earth. And men waited
with calm expectation for the dawn
of Golden Age.
Matson's lips twisted. Fools!
Blind, stupid fools! Selling their
birthright for a mess of pottage! He
shifted the rifle across his knees and
began filling the magazine with
cartridges. He felt an empty loneli-
ness as he closed the action over the
filled magazine and turned the
safety to "on". There was no com-
forting knowledge of support and
J. F. BONE
sympathy to sustain him in what he
was about to do. There was no real
hope that there ever would be. His
was a voice crying in the wilderness,
a voice that was ignored — as it had
been when he visited the President
of the United States . . .
MATSON entered the White
House, presented his appoint-
ment card, and was ushered past
ice-eyed Secret Service men into
the presidential office. It was as
close as he had ever been to the
Chief Executive, and he stared with
polite curiosity across the width of
desk which separated them.
"I wanted to see you about the
Aztlan business," the President be-
gan without preamble. "You were
there when their ship landed, and
you are also one of the few men in
the country who has seen them
alone. In addition, your office will
probably be handling the bulk of
our requests in regard to the offer
they made yesterday in the UN.
You're in a favorable spot." The
President smiled and shrugged. "I
wanted to talk with you sooner, but
business and routine play the devil
with one's desires in this office.
"Now tell me,", he continued,
"your impression of these people."
"They're an enigma," Matson
said flatly. "To tell the truth, I
can't figure them out." He ran his
fingers through his hair with a wor-
ried gesture. "I'm supposed to be a
pretty fair physicist, and I've had
quite a bit of training in the social
sciences, but both the mechanisms
and the psychology of these Aztlans
are beyond my comprehension. All
I can say for sure is that they're as
far beyond us as we are beyond the
cavemen. In fact, we have so little
in common that I can't think of a
single reason why they would want
to stay here, and the fact that they
do only adds to my confusion."
"But you must have learned
something," the President said.
"Oh we've managed to collect
data," Matson replied. "But there's
a lot of difference between data and
"I can appreciate that, but I'd
still like to know what you tfUnk.
Your opinion could have some
Matson doubted it. His opinions
were contrary to those of the major-
ity. Still, the Chief asked for it —
and he might possibly have an
open mind. It was a chance worth
"Well, Sir, I suppose you've
heard of the so-called "wild talents"
some of our own people occasion-
The President nodded.
"It is my belief," Matson con-
tinued, "that the Aztlans possess
these to a far greater degree than
we do, and that their science is
based upon them. They have some-
thing which they call psychomathe-
matics, which by definition is the
mathematics of the mind, and this
seems to be the basis of their physi-
cal science. I saw their machines,
and I must confess that their pur-
pose bafHed me until I realized that
they must be mechanisms for ampli-
fying their own natural equipment.
We know little or nothing about
psi phenomena, so it is no wonder
I couldn't figure them out. As a
matter of fact we've always treated
psi as something that shouldn't be
mentioned in polite scientific con-
The President grinned. "I alwa)'s
thought you boys had your blind
"We do — but when we're con-
fronted with a fact, we try to find
out something about it — that is if
the fact hits us hard enough, often
"Well, you've been hit hard and
often," the President chuckled,
"What did you find out?"
"Facts," Matson said grimly,
"just facts. Things that could be
determined by observation and
measurement. We know that the
aliens are telepathic. We also know
that they have a form of ESP — or
perhaps a recognition of danger
would be a better term — and we
know its range is somewhat over a
third of a mile. We know that
they're telekinetic. The lack of visi-
ble controls in their ship would tell
us that, even if we hadn't seen them
move small objects at a distance.
We know that they have eidetic
memories, and that they can reason
on an extremely high level. Other
than that we know nothing. We
don't even know their physical
structure. We've tried X-ray but
they're radio-opaque. We've tried
using some human sensitives from
the Rhine Institute, but they're un-
able to get an}'where. They just
turn empathic in the aliens' pres-
ence, and when we get them back,
they do nothing but babble about
the beauty of the Aztlan soul."
"Considering the difficulties, you
haven't done too badly," the Presi-
dent said. "I take it then, that
you're convinced that they are an
advanced life form. But do you
think they're sincere in their atti-
tude toward us?"
"Oh, they're sincere enough,"
Matson said. "The only trouble is
that we don't know just what
they're sincere about. You see, sir,
we are in the position of a savage to
whom a trader brings the luxuries
of civilization. To the savage, the
trader may represent purest altru-
ism, giving away such valuable
things as glass beads and machine
made cloth for useless pieces of yel-
low rock and the skins of some na-
tive pest. The savage hasn't the
slightest inkling that he's being ex-
ploited. By the time he realizes he's
been had, and the yellow rock is
gold and the skins are mink, he has
become so dependent upon the
goods for which the trader has
whetted his appetite that he inevita-
bly becomes an economic slave.
"Of course you can argue that
the cloth and beads are far more
valuable to the savage than the gold
or mink. But in the last analysis,
value is determined by the higher
culture, and by that standard, the
savage gets taken. And ultimately
civilization moves in and the supe-
rior culture of the trader's race de-
termines how the savage will act.
"Still, the savage has a basis for
his acts. He is giving something for
something — making a trade. But
we're not even in that position. The
aliens apparently want nothing
from us. They have asked for noth-
ing except our good will, and that
isn't a tradable item."
"But they're altruists!" the Presi-
J. F. BONE
"Sir, do you think that they're in-
sane?" Matson asked curiously.
"Do they appear like fanatics to
"But we can't apply our stand-
ards to them. You yourself have
said that their civilization is more
advanced than ours."
"Whose standards can we ap-
ply?" Matson asked. "If not ours,
then whose? The only standards
that we can possibly apply are our
own, and in the entire history of
human experience there has never
been a single culture that has had a
basis of pure altruism. Such a cul-
ture could not possibly exist. It
would be overrun and gobbled up
by its practical neighbors before it
drew its first breath.
"We must assume that the cul-
ture from which these aliens come
has had a practical basis in its
evolutionary history. It could not
have risen full blown and altruistic
like Minerva from the brain of
Jove. And if the culture had a prac-
tical basis in the past, it logically
follows that it has a practical basis
in the present. Such a survival trait
as practicality would probably
never be lost no matter how far the
Aztlan race has evolved. Therefore,
we must concede that they are prac-
tical people — people who do not
give away something for nothing.
But the question still remains —
what do they want?
"Whatever it is, I don't think it
is anything from which we will
profit. No matter how good it looks,
I am convinced that cooperation
with these aliens will not ultimately
be to our advantage. Despite the
repwrts of every investigative agency
in this government, I cannot be-
lieve that any such thing as pure
altrusim exists in a sane mind. And
whatever I may believe about the
Aztlans, I do not think they're in-
The President sighed. "You are a
suspicious man, Matson, and per-
haps you are right; but it doesn't
matter what you believe — or what
I believe for that matter. This gov-
ernment has decided to accept the
help the Aztlans are so graciously
offering. And until the reverse is
proven, we must accept the fact
that the star men are altruists, and
work with them on that basis. You
will organize your office along those
lines, and extract every gram of in-
formation that you can. Even you
must admit that they have knowl-
edge that will improve our Ameri-
can way of life,"
Matson shook his head doggedly,
"I'm afraid. Sir, if you expect
Aztlan science to improve the
American way of life, you are go-
ing to be disappointed. It might
promote an Aztlan way of life, but
the reverse is hardly possible."
"It's not my decision," the Presi-
dent said. "My hands are tied.
Congress voted for the deal by ac-
clamation early this morning. I
couldn't veto it even if I wanted
"I cannot cooperate in what I
believe is our destruction." Matson
said in a flat voice.
"Then you have only one
course," the President said. "I will
be forced to accept your resigna-
tion." He sighed wearily.
"Personally, I think you're mak-
ing a mistake. Think it over before
you decide. You're a good man, and
Lord knows the government can
use good men. There are far too
many fools in politics." He shrugged
and stood up. The interview was
Matson returned to his offices,
filled with cold frustration. Even
the President believed he could do
nothing, and these shortsighted
politicians who could see nothing
more than the immediate gains —
there was a special hell reserved for
them. There were too many fools
in politics. Hov/ever, he would do
what he could. His sense of duty
was stronger than his resentment.
He would stay on and try to cushion
some of the damage which the
Aztlans would inevitably cause, no
matter how innocent their motives.
And perhaps the President was
right — perhaps the alien science
would brinff more good than harm.
FOR THE NEXT two years
Matson watched the spread of
Aztlan ideas throughout the world.
He saw Aztlan devices bring health,
food and shelter to millions in un-
derprivileged coxmtries, and im-
prove the lot of those in more
favored nations. He watched tyran-
nies and authoritarian governments
fall under the passive resistance of
their peoples. He saw militarism
crumble to impotence as the Aztlan
influence spread through every
facet of society, first as a trickle,
then as a steady stream, and finally
as a rushing torrent. He saw Man-
kind on the brink of a Golden Age
— and he was unsatisfied.
Reason said that the star men
were exactly what they claimed to
be. Their every action proved it.
Their consistency was perfect, their
motives unimpeachable, and the re-
sults of their efforts were astound-
ing. Life on Earth was becoming
pleasant for millions who never
knew the meaning of the word.
Living standards improved, and
everywhere men were conscious of
a feeling of warmth and brother-
hood. There was no question that
the aliens were doing exactly what
But reason also told him that
the aliens were subtly and methodi-
cally destroying everything that
man had created, turning him from
an individual into a satisfied puppet
operated by Aztlan strings. For man
is essentially lazy — always searching
for the easier way. Why should he
struggle to find an answer when the
Aztlans had discovered it millennia
ago and were perfectly willing to
share their knowledge? Why should
he use inept human devices when
those of the aliens performed simi-
lar operations with infinitely more
ease and efficiency? Why should he
work when all he had to do was
ask? There was plan behind their
But at that point reason dissolved
into pure speculation. Why were
they doing this? Was it merely mis-
taken kindliness or was there a
deeper more subtle motive? Matson
didn't know, and in that lack of
knowledge lay the hell in which he
For two years he stayed on with
the OSR, watching humanity rush
J. F. BONE
down an unmarked road to an un-
certain future. Then he ran away.
He could take no more of this blind
dependence upon alien wisdom.
And with the change in adminis-
tration that had occurred in the
fall elections he no longer had the
sense of personal loyalty to the
President which had kept him
working at a job he despised. He
wanted no part of this brave new
world the aliens were creating. He
wanted to be alone. Like a hermit
of ancient times who abandoned
society to seek his soul, Matson fled
to the desert country of the South-
west — as far as possible from the
Aztlans and their works.
The grimly beautiful land tough-
ened his muscles, blackened his
skin, and brought him a measure of
peace. Humanity retreated to re-
moteness except for Seth Winters, a
leathery old-timer he had met on
his first trip into the desert. The
acquaintance had ripened to friend-
ship. Seth furnished a knowledge of
the desert country which Matson
lacked, and Matson's money pro-
vided the occasional grubstake they
needed. For weeks at a time they
never saw another human — and
Matson was satisfied. The world
could go its own way. He would go
Running away was the smartest
thing he could have done. Others
more brave perhaps, or perhaps less
rational — had tried to fight, to form
an underground movement to op-
pose these altruists from space; but
they were a tiny minority so divided
in motives and purpose that they
could not act as a unit. They were
never more than a nuisance, and
without popular support they never
had a chance. After the failure of
a complicated plot to assassinate
the aliens, they were quickly
rounded up and confined. And the
aliens continued their work.
Matson shrugged. It was funny
how little things could mark mile-
posts in a man's life. If he had
known of the underground he prob-
ably would have joined it and suf-
fered the same penalty for failure.
If he hadn't fled, if he hadn't met
Seth Winters, if he hadn't taken
that last trip into the desert, if any
one of a hundred little things had
happened differently he would not
be here. That last trip into the
desert — he remembered it as though
it were yesterday . . .
The yellow flare of a greasewood
fire cast flickering spears of light
into the encircling darkness. Above,
in the purplish black vault of the
moonless sky the stars shone down
with icy splendor. The air was
quiet, the evening breeze had died,
and the stillness of the desert night
pressed softly upon the earth. Far
away, muted by distance, came the
ululating wail of a coyote.
Seth Winters laid another stick
of quick-burning greasewood on the
fire and squinted across the smoke
at Matson who was lying on his
back, arms crossed behind his head,
eyeing the night sky with the fas-
cination of a dreamer.
"It's certainly peaceful out here,"
Matson murmured as he rose to his
feet, stretched, and sat down again
looking into the tiny fire.
" 'Tain't nothin' unusual, Dan'l.
Not out here it ain't. It's been
plumb peaceful on this here desert
nigh onto a million years. An' why's
it peaceful? Mainly 'cuz there ain't
too many humans messin' around
"Possibly you're right, Seth."
"Shore I'm right. It jest ain't
nacheral fer a bunch of Homo saps
to get together without an argyment
startin' somewhere. 'Tain't the na-
ture of the critter to be peaceable.
An' y'know, thet's the part of this
here sweetness an' light between
nations that bothers me. Last time
I was in Prescott, I set down an'
read six months of newspapers —
an' everything's jest too damn good
to be true. Seems like everybody's
gettin' to love everybody else." He
shook his head. "The hull world's
as sticky-sweet as molasses candy.
It jest ain't nacheral!"
"The star men are keeping their
word. They said that they would
bring us peace. Isn't that what
"Shucks Dan'l — that don't give
'em no call to make the world a
blasted honey-pot with everybody
bubblin' over with brotherly love.
There ain't no real excitement left.
Even the Commies ain't raisin' hell
like they useta. People are gettin'
more like a bunch of damn woolies
"I'll admit that Mankind had
herd instincts," Matson replied laz-
ily, "but I've never thought of them
as particularly sheeplike. More like
a wolf pack, I'd say."
"Wal, there's nothin' wolflike
about 'em right now. Look, Dan'l,
yuh know what a wolf pack's like.
They're smart, tough, and mean —
an' the old boss wolf is the smartest,
toughest, and meanest critter in the
hull pack. The others respect him
'cuz he's proved his ability to lead.
But take a sheep flock now — the
bellwether is jest a nice gentle old
castrate thet'll do jest whut the
sheepherder wants. He's got no
originality. He's jest a noise thet the
"It shore is! Jes f'r instance, an'
speakin' of bellwethers, have yuh
ever heard of a character called
"Can't say I have. He sounds like
"Whutever a nance is — he's it!
But yuh're talkin' about our next
President, unless all the prophets
are wrong. He's jest as bad as his
name. Of all the gutless wonders
I've ever heard of that pilgrim takes
the prize. He even looks like a rab-
"I can see where I had better
catch up on some contemporary
history," Matson said. "I've been
out in the sticks too long."
"If yuh know what's good fer
yuh, yuh' 11 stay here. The rest of
the country's goin' t'hell. Brother
Bixbee's jest a sample. About the
only thing that'd recommend him is
that he's hot fer peace — an' he's got
those furriners' blessing. Seems like
those freaks swing a lotta weight
nowadays, an' they ain't shy about
tellin' folks who an' what they
favor. They've got bold as brass this
Matson nodded idly— then stiff-
ened — turning a wide eyed stare on
Seth. A blinding light exploded in
his brain as the words sank in.
J, F, BONE
With crystal clarity he knew the
answer! He laughed harshly.
Winters stared at him with mild
surprise. "What's bit yuh, Dan'l?"
But Matson was completely ob-
livious, busily buttressing the flash
of inspiration. Sure— that was the
only thing it could be! Those aliens
were working on a program — one
that was grimly recognizable once
his attention was focussed on it.
There must have been considerable
pressure to make them move so fast
that a short-lived human could see
what they were planning — but
Matson had a good idea of what
was driving them, an atomic war
that could decimate the world
would be all the spur they'd need!
They weren't playing for penny
ante stakes. They didn't want to
exploit Mankind. They didn't give
a damn about Mankind! To them
humanity was merely an unavoid-
able nuisance — something to be
pushed aside, to be made harmless
and dependent, and ultimately to
be quietly and bloodlessly elimi-
nated. Man's civilization held noth-
ing that the star men wanted, but
man's planet — that was a dififerent
story! Truly the aliens were right
when they considered man a sav-
age. Like the savage, man didn't
realize his most valuable possession
was his land!
The peaceful penetration was
what had fooled him. Mankind,
faced with a similar situation, and
working from a position of over-
whelming strength would have re-
acted differently. Humanity would
have invaded and conquered. But
the aliens had not even considered
this obvious step.
The answer was simple and logi-
cal. They couldn't! Even though
their technology was advanced
enough to exterminate man with
little or no loss to themselves, com-
bat and slaughter must be repulsive
to them. It had to be. With their
telepathic minds they would neces-
sarily have a pathologic horror of
suffering. They were so highly
evolved that they simply couldn't
fight — at least not with the weap-
ons of humanity. But they could
use the subtler weapon of altruism!
And even more important — un-
controlled emotions were poison to
them. In fact Ixtl had admitted it
back in Seattle. The primitive psi
waves of humanity's hates, lusts,
fears, and exultations must be un-
bearable torture to a race long past
such animal outbursts. That was —
must be — why they were moving so
fast. For their own safety, emotion
had to be damped out of the hu-
Matson had a faint conception
of what the aliens must have suf-
fered when they first surveyed that
crowd at International Airport, No
wonder they looked so strangely im-
mobile at that first contact! The
raw emotion must have nearly
killed them! He felt a reluctant stir
of admiration for their courage, for
the dedicated bravery needed to
face that crowd and establish a
beachhead of tranquility. Those
first few minutes must have had
compressed in them the agonies of
Matson grinned coldly. The
aliens were not invulnerable. If
Mankind could be taught to fear
and hate them, and if that emotion
could be focussed, they never again
would try to take this world. It
would be sheer suicide. As long as
Mankind kept its emotions it would
be safe from this sort of invasion.
But the problem was to teach Man-
kind to fear and hate. Shock would
do it, but how could that shock be
The thought led inevitably to the
only possible conclusion. The aliens
would have to be killed, and in
such a manner as to make human-
ity fear retaliation from the stars.
Fear woidd unite men against a
possible invasion, and fear would
force men to reach for the stars to
Matson grinned thinly. Human
nature couldn't have changed
much these past years. Even with
master psychologists like the Azt-
lans operating upon it, changes in
emotional pattern would require
generations. He sighed, looked into
the anxious face of Seth Winters,
and returned to the reality of the
desert night. His course was set. He
knew what he liad to do.
HE LAID THE rifle across his
knees and opened the little
leather box sewn to the side of the
guncase. With precise, careful
movements he removed the silencer
and fitted it to the threaded muzzle
of the gun. The bulky, blue ex-
crescence changed the rifle from a
thing of beauty to one of murder.
He looked at it distastefully, then
shrugged and stretched out on the
mattress, easing the ugly muzzle
through the hole in the brickwork.
It wouldn't be long now. . .
He glanced upward through the
window above him at the Weather
Bureau instruments atop a nearby
building. The metal cups of the
anemometer hung motionless
against the metallic blue of the sky.
No wind stirred in the deep can-
yons of the city streets as the sun
climbed in blazing splendor above
the towering buildings. He moved a
trifle, shifting the muzzle of the gun
until it bore upon the sidewalks.
The telescopic sight picked out
faces from the waiting crowd with
a crystal clarity. Everywhere was
the same sheeplike placidity. He
shuddered, the sights jumping
crazily from one face to another, —
wondering if he had misjudged his
race, if he had really come too late,
if he had underestimated the pow-
ers of the Aztlans.
Far down the avenue, an excited
hum came to his ears, and the
watching crowd stirred. Faces
lighted and Matson sighed. He was
not wrong. Emotion was only sup-
pressed, not vanished. There was
The aliens were coming. Coming
to cap the climax of their pioneer
work, to drive the first nail in hu-
manity's coffin! J"or the first time in
history man's dream of the brother-
hood of man was close to reality.
And he was about to destroy it!
The irony bit into Matson's soul,
and for a moment he hesitated,
feeling the wave of tolerance and
good will rising from the street be-
low. Did he have the right to de-
stroy man's dream? Did he dare
tamper with the will of the world?
Had he the right to play God?
J. F. BONE
The parade came slowly down
the happy street, a kaleidoscope of
color and movement that ap-
proached and went past in suc-
cessive waves and masses. This was
a gala day, this eve of world union !
The insigne of the UN was every-
where. The aliens had used the or-
ganization to further their plans
and it was now all-powerful. A
solid bank of UN flags led the van
of delegates, smiling and swathed
in formal dress, sitting erect in their
black official cars draped with the
flags of native lands that would
soon be furled forever if the aliens
had their way.
And behind them came the
They rode together, standing on
a pure white float, a bar of dazzling
white in a sea of color. All equal,
their inhumanly beautiful faces
calm and remote, the Aztlans rode
through the joyful crowd. There
was something inspiring about the
sight and for a moment, Matson
felt a wave of revulsion sweep
He sighed and thumbed the
safety to "off", pulled the cocking
lever and slid the first cartridge
into the breech. He settled himself
drawing a breath of air into his
lungs, letting a little dribble out
through slack lips, catching the re-
mainder of the exhalation with
closed glottis. The sights wavered
and steadied upon the head of the
center alien, framing the pale noble
face with its aureole of golden hair.
The luminous eyes were dull and
introspective as the alien tried to
withdraw from the emotions of the
crowd. There was no awareness of
danger on the alien's face. At 600
yards he was beyond their esper
range and he was further covered
by the feehngs of the crowd. The
sights lowered to the broad chest
and centered there as Matson's
spatulate fingers took up the slack
in the trigger and squeezed softly
A coruscating glow bathed the
bodies of three of the aliens as their
tall forms jerked to the smashing
impact of the bullets! Their metal-
lic tunics melted and sloughed as
inner fires ate away the fragile
garments that covered them! Flex-
ible synthetic skin cracked and
curled in the infernal heat, reveal-
ing padding, wirelike tendons, rope-
like cords of flexible tubing and a
metallic skeleton that melted and
dripped in white hot drops in the
heat of atomic flame —
"Robots!" Matson gasped with
sudden blinding realization. "I
should have known! No wonder
they seemed inhuman. Their build-
ers would never dare expose them-
selves to the furies and conflicts of
our emotionally uncontrolled
One of the aliens crouched on
the float, his four-fingered hands
pressed against a smoking hole in
his metal tunic. The smoke thick-
ened and a yellowish ichor poured
out bursting into flame on contact
with the air. The fifth alien, Ixtl,
was untouched, standing with
hands widestretched in a gesture
that at once held command and
Matson reloaded quickly, but
held his fire. The swarming crowd
surrounding the alien was too thick
for a clear shot and Matson, with
.sudden revulsion, was unwilling to
risk further murder in a cause al-
ready won. The tall, silver figure of
the alien winced and shuddered, his
huge body shaking like a leaf in a
storm! His builders had never de-
signed him to withstand the bar-
rage of focussed emotion that was
sweeping from the crowd. Terror,
shock, sympathy, hate, loathing,
grief, and disillusionment — -the in-
credible gamut of human feelings
wrenched and tore at the Aztlan,
shorting delicate circuits, ripping
the poised balance of his being as
the violent discordant blasts lanced
through him with destroying en-
ergy! Ixtl's classic features twisted
in a spasm of inconceivable agony,
a thin curl of smoke drifted from
his distorted tragic mask of a
mouth as he crumpled, a pitiful de-
flated figure against the whitness
of the float.
The cries of fear and horror
changed their note as the aliens'
true nature dawned upon the
crowd. Pride of flesh recoiled as the
swarming humans realized the
facts. Revulsion at being led by ma-
chines swelled into raw red rage.
The mob madness spread as an
ominous growl began rising from
A panicky policeman triggered
it, firing his Aztlan-built shock tube
into the forefront of the mob. A
dozen men fell, to be trampled by
their neighbors as a swarm of men
and women poured over the strug-
gling officer and buried him from
sight. Like wildfire, pent-up emo-
tions blazed out in a flame of fury.
The parade vanished, sucked into
the maelstrom and torn apart.
Fists flew, flesh tore, men and
women screamed in high bitter
agony as the mob clawed and tram-
pled in a surging press of writhing
forms that filled the street from one
line of buildings to the other.
Half-mad with triumph, drunk
with victory, shocked at the ter-
rible form that death had taken in
coming to Ixtl, Matson raised his
clenched hands to the sky and
screamed in a raw inhuman voice,
a cry in which all of man's violence
and pride were blended! The
spasm passed as quickly as it came,
and with its passing came exhaus-
tion. The job was done. The aliens
were destroyed. Tomorrow would
bring reaction and with it would
Tomorrow or the next day man
would hammer out a true world
union, spurred by the thought of a
retribution that would never come.
Yet all that didn't matter. The im-
portant thing — the only important
thing — was preserved. Mankind
would have to unite for survival —
or so men would think — and he
would never disillusion them. For
this was man's world, and men
were again free to work out their
own destiny for better or for worse,
without interference, and without
help. The golden dream was over.
Man might fail, but if he did he
would fail on his own terms. And
if he succeeded — Matson looked up
grimly at the shining sky. . .
Slowly he rose to his feet and
descended to the raging street
Illustrated by Paul Orhan
Willy was undoubtedly a hero.
The difficulty lies in deciding
which side he was on
BY ELAINE WILDER
TWO MONTHS AFTER the
landing, Ship UXB-69311 was
rigged out with most things needed
to make life bearable, if not interest-
ing, for the crew. Perched on the
manicured, blue-green sod of the
planet Engraham, its inner parts
were transformed and refitted for
the many months of the Explora-
tion. No effort and no flight of
imagination had been spared to
make the ship resemble more a
country club than a barracks. With
the permission of Colonel Mon-
drain, the crew's bunkroom had
been completely rearranged, and a
segment thereof made into a quiet-
ly elegant bar. Plans for this even-
tual rejuvenation had been foment-
ing throughout the very tiresome
and very monotonous journey.
When they first landed, the na-
tives fled, and thus it was easy to
liberate furnishings from the adja-
cent village. When the inhabitants
returned, after the purposes of the
visiting Earthman were acknowl-
edged to be harmless, they proved
to be too courteous to carp about a
few missing articles.
The chairs, of a very advanced
design and most comfortable, were
made of a light and durable metal
alloy thus far unknown to Earth.
The bar (which was probably not
its purpose on Engraham, no one
knew or cared what its function had
been) was of a design so futuristic
that it would have turned a modern
artist mad. The utensils, also
liberated, were unbelievably deli-
cate, yet strong and easy to wash.
At first, since the Earth had not
intended the Exploration to resem-
ble the type that Texas-stationed
servicemen like to run in Mata-
moros, there was nothing to drink
in the utensils. But hardly six weeks
had passed before the first hero of
the Exploration, a man named
O'Connors, discovered a palatable
fruit growing on nearby bushes. By
means of a system of improvised
pipes (also liberated) it was no
time at all before tasty beverages,
somewhat strident but quite effec-
tive, were being run off and con-
sumed in quantities. The machine
known as O'Connors Joy- Juicer was
concealed behind the bar, and all
that was ever seen on the bar when
Colonel Mondrain or the Doctors
were around was an innocuous fruit
The Earth Command had
stocked the ship with reading mate-
rial, most of it of a disgustingly edu-
cational nature, in photostatic
cards: and the second hero of the
Exploration was a man named
Kosalowsky, who discovered in the
psychology sections the works of
Freud and Krafft-Ebing. After this
discovery, a few interesting discus-
After these changes had been
made, there was very little to do.
The Earth Command had as-
sumed that the natives of Engra-
ham would resent the Explorations
(most planets did), and so had sent
along the crew of thirty men for
protection. Ail had labored might-
ily to become part of this special
crew, chosen for endurance and
known war-like qualities. For once
they got back to Earth, all were
slated to be mustered out of service
immediately, decorated to the ears,
and awarded full, life-time pen-
sions. Many already had contracts
to appear on television and one
man, Blunt, hinted at a long term
But once they got there, there
was little to do after all. A guard
was posted; instruments were
checked; and, although the neces-
sity seemed slight, the ship was kept
primed for instantaneous emer-
gency take-off. On the day cor-
responding to Earth's Saturday, the
ship was G. I.'d from stem to stern.
The maintenance crew made sure
that no parts deteriorated or got
liberated by enterprising natives.
But the natives were not an inven-
tive race. It was discovered by the
Doctors (Anker, Frank, Pelham
and Flandeau) that the natives
literally did not know how to steal.
They were backward. Dr. Flan-
deau, who was making great strides
with the language, reported that
there was some evidence that the
Engrahamites had once possessed
this skill, along with murder, may-
hem, bad faith, and politics, but
had lost it, through a deterioration
of the species.
Thus, once the ship had been
transformed into a place worthy of
human dwelling, and the beverage
question had been solved, and utter,
imbecilic boredom circumvented by
the timely discoveries of Freud and
Krafft-Ebing, the men found time
hanging heavily on their hands;
and the more the doctors discov-
ered about the Engrahamites, the
more dismal the situation became.
The doctors, growing more and
more fascinated by their tasks, left
the ship bright and early each day,
returning around nightfall to re-
duce their growing stacks of data
to points of Earthly relevance. The
Colonel was also out most of the
time. He paid many social calls on
the natives, who, being courteous,
received him, and was often re-
turned at night in a chauffeured
native Hop-Hop. Life in the bunk-
room became a sullen round of
poker, reading of Kraff t-Ebing, and
gab: and Earth currency changed
hands daily in the never-ending
For there was one great lack in
their lives. This lack, and the in-
ability to do anything about it, ab-
sorbed many hours of conversation.
At first, complaints only occurred at
intervals; but as weeks passed, the
lamentations became so fervent, so
constant, and so heart-rending, that
Dr. Flandeau observed to Dr. Frank
that more stirring passages had not
been made since the Jeremiad. For
Dr. Flandeau, although aging, was
in his off hours a poet, and a
Dr. Frank said, "Yes, well, poor
At first, nostalgically, the crew
harked back to happier times on
Earth. Soon not one young lady of
their collective acquaintance had
escaped the most minute analysis.
They were young men — the oldest,
Blunt, was only twenty-six — and
several of them had married young,
greatly limiting their activities so
that even their cumulative mem-
ories could not last forever. After
several weeks, repetition began to
set in. Once all successes had been
lovingly remembered, down to the
last, exquisite detail, they began re-
calling their failures. The master
strategist, the imofficial referee of
these seminars, was Dick Blunt.
"Now where you went wrong
there," he would tell a fledglina;
reporting complete zero with a
YWCA resident, "Was in making
her feel that you were interested.
Your line with a girl like that
shoidd be one of charity. Pure
charity. You impress on her that
you're doing her a terrific favor.
You offer to bring to her dull life
romance, adventure, tenderness."
"I couldn't even get my hands
on her," complained the reproved
failure, Herbert Banks.
"I've always found that type the
easiest ones of all," Blunt said in-
differently. "Dull, of course."
The testiness, the self-pity, the
shortness of temper and the near-
riots over stolen packages of ciga-
rettes, were not improved after the
Doctors, having surveyed the situa-
tion thoroughly, decided that it
would do no harm to let the men of
the crew go out on Liberty.
Fraternizing with natives was, of
course, strictly forbidden. They
were not to drink off premises.
(Nor on, for that matter.) They
were exhorted not to steal, not to
engage in fights.
Still, they could walk around,
take pictures of the strange pink
houses and the dazzling cities. They
could watch a covey of children
swim in the municipal pools. They
could look at the fountains, the so-
called "miraculous fountains of
Engraham", or climb the strange,
glassy mountains. The natives, al-
though shy of them, were most po-
lite, and some smiled enchantingly
^especially the women.
THIS WAS THE worst rub of
all: there were women, and
they were gorgeous. A little smaller
than most Earth women, with
bright eyes, and high, arched eye-
brows, looking forever as if they
had heard tlie most priceless joke.
Their faces conformed to the most
rigid standards of Caucasian
beauty. Their legs, so delicate, so
tapering, so fantastically small of
ankle, were breath-taking. Their
clothes, which would have driven a
Parisian designer to suicide, were
draped carelessly over the most ex-
quisite figures. True, they were a
little deficient in one department,
and this was explained, before they
were granted liberty, by Dr. Flan-
deau. The women of Engraham, he
said, did not bear children.
This announcement was not re-
ceived with special gloom, for until
then, none of the crew had seen an
Engrahamite woman. But Willy
Lanham, a dark-haired, skinny boy
from Tennessee, asked, unhappily,
"Don't they even go in for games
Flandeau understood instantly.
He shook his head sadly. "I should
think not. It has been a long time
since they have observed the nor-
mal functions. The women are
mainly for decoration, although it
is said that some are also created
for brains. They are a most strange
After this — granted these agoniz-
ing liberties, and able to see that
which was biologically unattain-
able — the crew became so demoral-
ized that not even Kosalowsky's dis-
covery of the works of Wilhelm
Reik relieved the deep gloom.
However, they had reckoned
without the superior genius of Dick
Blunt. Blunt received Flandeau's
news as unhappily as the others,
and, like the rest, was made miser-
able by the sight of the glorious
damozels. But he was a reasonable
man and he put his reasoning pow-
ers to work. Soon he alone was
cheerful. He went around with the
absorbed, other-world look of a
physicist grappling with a problem
in ionospheric mathematics with-
out the use of an IBM calculator.
One day he went on Liberty alone.
He did not return until the fall of
night, and when he came in his
elation was so immoderate that the
others thought there must be bars
on Engraham after all.
"I have found the answer to our
question," he said.
No one needed to ask what ques-
tion. O'Connors hurried to pour
Blunt a drink.
"I have spent the day pursuing
this answer logically," said Blunt.
"I have done what any thoughtful
man would do. I have read up on
"How?" cried Henderson.
"At the library."
Blunt then described his day:
finding his way to the library by
means of pantomime; and finding
at last, that file of photographs —
photographs of an utterly self-ex-
planatory nature. And these he
pulled from his pocket, for ignor-
ing all discipline, he had stolen
The pictures passed from hand
to hand. O'Connors passed them
on to Pane, and suddenly felt the
need to open the window behind
him. It was Willy Lanham, the
boy from Tennessee, who voiced
those exultant words that rose to
the throats of all:
He said, "Hey! They're made
just like the Earth girls."
The conversation, at this intense-
ly interesting point, was cut short
by the arrival of the Colonel. He
alighted from the native Hop-Hop
— waved cheerily to its driver, and
began coming up. The bottle and
glasses vanished, and Kosalowsky
began to read aloud from a book
especially reserved for these occa-
sions. The men maintained looks
of studious interest as the officer
went through. He went up the lad-
der to his own quarters, there to
write in his growing volume, THE
COMING OCCUPATION AND
GOVERNMENT OF ENGRA-
HAM. They listened until his door
The conversation was resumed
in more subdued tones.
"Do you think," said Pane shak-
ily, "They still could?"
"Not a question of it," Blunt
said. "These pictures prove it. It's
what you might call a lost art. Once
upon a time, as with all the fortu-
nate parts of the galaxy, this art
was known to the Engrahamites.
Through some terrific foul-up, they
lost it. Probably a combination of
the science of incubation, and the
reign of some ghastly square, like
Queen Victoria. Thus were the
girls of Engraham deprived of the
pleasures of love."
"The men, too," said Willy. All
glared at him reproachfully. To
care about the happiness of the
Engrahamite men was thought not
"Gradually," Blunt went on,
"they must have begun to lose
interest. Probably there was some
taboo. In the end they probably all
thought, oh, to hell with it, and be-
gan serving on committees."
A long sigh went up.
"It is for us," Blunt said softly,
treasuring each word, "to restore
these vmhappy maidens to their
original human rights.
"But it isn't going to be easy,"
Blunt went on. His voice dropped
even lower. "Think what would
happen if it went sour. Those Doc-
tors would get wind of it. We'd be
stuck in the Ship for the rest of
There was a sober pause. Finally
Banks cleared his throat and said,
"Well, how do you think it should
be handled, Blunt?"
"Well, every beachhead needs an
invasion," Blunt said, casually hold-
ing out his glass. O'Connors leapt
to fill it. "One guy has got to lay
the groundwork. Let him enlighten
one quail. Explain things to her."
He took a long, leisurely drink, and
sighed. "This quail will rush
around telling the others. Pretty
soon there'll be so many hanging
around the ship that — "
There was a general rush for
"Right," someone said, when the
faculty of speech was recovered.
"And necessarily," said Blunt,
"this has to be the guy with the
most savvy. The one who knows the
score. The one most likely to suc-
All knew what this was leading
up to. Martin said unhappily,
"Check, Blunt, You're our boy."
Blunt was scheduled to stand
guard the next day, but Willy Lan-
ham, eager to assist the cause, vol-
unteered to take over for him. The
hours seemed to creep by. His air
was swaggering and cool when he
returned, and all gathered round
with eager curiosity — all but Lan-
ham, who had not recovered from
Blunt sauntered to the bar, ac-
cepted a drink, sipped it, lighted a
cigarette, and took a long, pensive
drag. Finally he said reminiscently,
"What a doll!"
Pane, never a subtle man, cried
in anguish, "Well, how'd you make
Blunt smiled smugly. He began
his recital. He was walking along
the street and he met this gorgeous
creature. A full description fol-
lowed (broken by the arrival of
the Colonel and two paragraphs of
the DECLINE AND FALL) mak-
ing it clear that this was the dish
of dishes, the most beautiful of the
beautiful, the most charming, and
the most intelligent. She allowed
herself to be addressed in Blunt's
few words of Engrahamic and,
smiling ever patiendy, sat with him
for several hours. Their talk took
place in a secluded bower, in one
of the many parks. She was agree-
able and charmed and promised to
see him again. He even managed,
through terrific feats of pantomime,
to impress on her the need of se-
crecy in future meetings.
"That was all?" someone said,
when he finished.
"For the first meeting, I think I
did wonders," said Blunt. "After
all, sex hasn't been known here
since a time corresponding to our
Later, when the nightly poker
game was beginning, Willy I^an-
ham said, "Why didn't you just
make a grab for her?"
"That's the hill-billy approach,"
Blunt said disdainfully. "These girls
are civilized — very, very civilized.
It's important not to shock them."
BLUNT'S NEXT gambit was to
set about learning the lan-
guage. For this he went not to
Flandeau, who best knew it, but to
Ankers, who was a pure scientist
in every sense of the word, and not
so likely to suspect his motives. The
girl proved very cultured. She took
him to art galleries, to symphonies,
and mountain climbing, for scram-
bling up and down the glassy hills
was a favorite Engrahamic sport.
As he advanced in the language,
he learned that her name was Ca-
tataphinaria, which meant "she will
attain relative wisdom". He found
that she worked for the Eleven
who, while not rulers, offered gen-
eral suggestions which the populace
more or less followed.
Although his slow progress in-
evitably bored the crew, still, it of-
fered that one precious ray of hope,
and they became so tractable that
even the Doctors noticed it. They
laid it to the secret ingredient that
Dr. Frank had introduced into the
The summer wore on, becoming
hotter each day. By the end of the
second month of his courtship,
Blunt began to speak to her of love.
She laughed. She said that she
had little curiosity on the subject,
although it was now and then
mentioned by the students of an-
tiquity. Assured that it was pleasur-
able, she said that she heard that
barbarians also enjoyed murdering
people and making them butts of
Willy Lanham said, "Don't listen
to what a girl says. Just make a
grab for her."
This suggestion was laughed to
Weeks passed, the summer be-
gan to wane. Tempers again began
to shorten. Flandeau said to Frank,
"The men are worse again."
"Yes, perhaps we should increase
The fruits for the Joy-Juicer
grew thin on the silvery bushes, and
men ranged far and wide, putting
in supplies for the winter.
One night, when Blunt had won
at poker, all the men lay in their
bunks, too dispirited to drink, to
shoot craps, almost too miserable
even for speech. Blunt again began
talking of Catataphinaria. Drowsily
Lanham said, "I think you're going
at it the wrong way, Dick. Try
some real rough stuff. You know —
kiss her. She might like it."
Before Blunt could defend his
strategy, Kosalowsky sat up in his
bunk. "Yes, for cripes sake," he
said, "Move in for the kill. Or shut
up about it. You're driving us all
"Would you like to try?" Blunt
"Sure I'll try," Kosalowsky said.
He turned on the light over his
bunk. "Give me a crack at her. I
could have managed it weeks ago.
All you've done is talk to the
"Yah, Dick, maybe you're using
the wrong approach on this one,"
"It's the damn places you take
her," Kosalowsky said. "Art gal-
leries. Anybody ever seduce a girl
in an art gallery? Symphonies.
Popping around in her damn Hop-
Hop. Can't you ever get her
"She lives with ten other girls,"
Blunt said sulkily. "They're all
home all the time."
"Well, bring her here, then,"
Pane suggested. "We'll all take a
There was no answer. They
could not all, by day, desert the
ship, and it was getting too chilly
for the crew to hide in adjacent
shrubbery. "We could put up a
wall," Pane said suddenly, "be-
tween the bunks and the bar."
"I know," Banks said eagerly,
"where there's a whole pile of stuff.
It's nice thin metal, just lying there
"I think you're premature — "
"Premature!" Kosalowsky shout-
ed. "Six months you've been chas-
ing this tomato. You call that pre-
"Only four by Engrahamic
time," Blunt said, insulted.
"Listen," Kosalowsky said, "that
wall goes up tomorrow. And you're
smuggling her in tomorrow night.
Or else," he said, glaring at Blunt,
"after that it's every man for him-
Blunt, only slightly seen in the
light from Kosalowsky's bunk, was
white with rage. "All right, guys,"
he said stonily. "I've been trying to
do right by this frail. Nothing
abrupt or hillbilly. Nothing to hurt
her delicate feelings or her fine
mind. But if this is how you want
The next day the wall went up.
Hardly a word was said as it
was hammered in place. Once up,
the place was G. I.'d thoroughly.
The ash trays were washed, the
floor vacuumed, and the lights ad-
justed to achieve the most tellingly
seductive effect. Blunt went out at
two, thin-lipped and silent.
"The jerk," Kosalowsky said, "I
think he's a lot of hot air. That's
what / think."
The Colonel came in at night-
fall and asked about the wall. They
told him that it was to cut off the
recreation section from the sleeping
quarters, for the protection of those
who wanted more sleep to prepare
for the grueling winter watches.
"Very good idea men," the
Colonel said, and went upstairs to
write another chapter in his book.
At nine the men disappeared in-
to their bunks. O'Connors won the
responsible job of peering through
the narrow slit in the wall. Behind
him could be heard the labored
breathing of twenty-seven dis-
traught men. One man snored.
"Wake up, you stupid ass," Pane
told Lanham. "You'll wreck the
At last the door opened and
Blunt came in — with the girl.
She was breath-taking. She wore,
O'Connors reported, a dress cut to
here — and her hair was piled high
on her patrician head. Blunt had
not lied. She was even prettier than
the usual run of Engraham girls.
"He's offering her a drink,"
"She take it?"
"No — she's sitting at the bar.
He's having one, though. He's turn-
ing on the hi-fi."
He did not have to tell them,
since all could hear the soft music.
They had selected a program of
melodies considered sure-fire.
"He's talking to her — putting his
ann around her waist. Oh-oh. She
knocked it off. She's laughing,
In the silence they all heard her
laugh. Several men moved uncom-
fortably. "He's leading her toward
the couch — oh-oh — she stopped to
look at the radar screen."
It was the auxiliary radar, not
the important one in the control
room. "What's he doing?"
"Telling her — he's edging her to
the couch again — now she's asking
about the Bassett Blaster. They're
fooling around with the gim. He's
showing her how it works — trying
to put his hands — !"
This last was lost, for there was
a sudden, resounding blast. Their
bunks, the entire ship, trem.bled.
The meaning was clear to all.
They flattened to their bunks, and
waited tensely. They heard a sound,
the sound of a foot kicking a body.
A hand scratched tentatively
along the wall.
No one moved. "She killed him."
O'Connors voice was no more than
a slight whisper. "Lay low — lay
Then a woman's voice said, in
perfect English, "AH right, you
men. Come out of there."
The door was found and flung
open. Catataphinaria stood in the
dim light — still holding the Blaster.
She said again, more sharply, "I
said, Come out of there!"
Clumsily, they came down from
"Now," she said, as she had
them all against the wall, "call
down the others."
But this was unnecessary, for the
Doctors and the Colonel were al-
ready descending the ladder. They
turned quite white at the sight of
her. Wordlessly, she indicated that
they were to join the others. The
Doctors found it harder to adjust
to a purely military sort of emer-
gency. Ankers asked clearly, "What
on earth is this nonsense?"
"No nonsense," the girl said.
"Just do as I say. First, surrender
all your papers."
"Your research. Your conclu-
Henderson said, "I'll go get it,
"I would also like the Colonel's
amusing work on the coming oc-
"I know where it is, sir," Martin
said swiftly. "I'll get it."
The Colonel's expression was
stony. He nodded to Martin to get
it, and it occurred to him that the
girl was one of those whom he had
personally selected as the most
promising for the puppet govern-
ments. But when he asked about her
identity, she cut him off without a
"Then, may I ask where you
learned such flawless English?"
"All of us know English," she
said. "It is a very stupid language."
Martin and Henderson returned
with the papers. Gingerly they ap-
proached her, handed the papers to
her, and darted back to their places
in the line. She placed the stack on
the bar, leafed through it, all the
while keeping them covered with
the Blaster, and remarked on fin-
ishing, "It is exactly what one
would expect barbarians to find
Flandeau, however, remained a
scientist to the last.
"We find ourselves unhappily de-
ceived," he said. "We were certain
— that you were utterly without de-
fenses. We were told that you did
not know how to lie, cheat, dissem-
ble, or fight."
"Only not with each other," she
said. "It was, so to speak, a lost
art." She glanced at Blunt. Several
men squirmed. "But it is one that
we have regained," she said.
"And what will you do with us?"
"We have decided to let you go,"
she said. "Now that we possess this
weapon," — she brandished the
Blaster — "which we can copy, we
think we can prevent more Ex-
plorations. At least this is the opin-
ion of the Eleven. So I am in-
structed to let you leave — at once,
"You are most charming," said
"At once," she repeated.
"Yes, of course. Men! Prepare
THE WAY BACK was tedious
— the floating around, the
boredom, the unending blackness
of space — but at least it was going
home. After the first weeks of
space-sickness, things returned to
near normal, and the Doctors con-
ferred with the Colonel. It was de-
cided that the best report should
be that Engraham was uninviting,
bleak, and of no interest to Earth-
men. The reputations of all were
at stake (the doctors found them-
selves, stripped of their papers,
unable to recollect enough, and the
Colonel desperately feared a court-
martial) and the crew was thus
advised. All agreed to keep their
mouths shut. Thus their honorable
discharges, medals, and life-time
pensions would be safe.
So, with all this decided, and
Earth only a few months away,
relative cheerfulness reigned. Only
Willy Lanham continued to mope.
"What's biting you?" Kosalowsky
asked, one day as they lay strapped
in adjacent bunks. "Your face is
as long as this ship."
"I just feel bad," Willy said. "I
can feel bad if I want to, can't I?"
"What the hell, we'll soon be
home. We can really raise some
"I miss my girl," Willy blurted
"You'll see her pretty soon."
"I mean my girl on Engraham."
It happened that just then sev-
eral other men, bored with lying
still, were floating past. They
gripped the edges of Willy's bunk.
"You mean you had," Kosalow-
sky said cunningly, "a girl on En-
"Sure I did," said Willy de-
fensively. "Didn't all you guys?"
More and more men joined the
knot of bodies around Willy's bunk.
The atmosphere became distinctly
"You mean you didn't?" Willy
said. "You mean it wasn't a gag we
were pulling on Blunt?"
They were silent. One pair of
floating hands neared Willy's
"Honest," he said. "I didn't
think you were that dumb. I salowsky asked heavily,
thought you were just letting Blunt "Yeah!" echoed the others,
make an ass of himself. I thought "Well, she was just a frail, I
that — well, it was so easy. I even guess," Willy said. "I used to see
told Dick a couple of times. You her around the ship. On guard
just had to make a grab for 'em." duty. I used to see her all the time.
Pane suddenly let out a harsh What the hell," he said, "You think
sound, like the cry of a wounded I'm dumb or something? Why'd
bull. you think I was willing to stand
"So who was this frail?" Ko- guard all the time?" END
" '"" "' "
What Is Your Science I. Q.?
LAND, sea, air or otherwise! Score 5 points for each correct an-
swer; 50 is about average for the course. Anything more makes
you really science-minded. Answers on page 115.
1. What is a dodecahedron?
2. In which constellation is the Milky Way?
3. What is unusual about the sulfur content of sea water?
4. What metal is referred to when the word stannous is used?
5. What determines the boiling point of a substance?
6. What is aerology?
7. Arrange the following according to Moh's scale: topaz, gyp-
! sum, fluorite. !
8. What are the six devices known as simple machines?
9. What is polymerization?
10. What is the name of element 102?
11. What makes fungi and algae similar? ;
12. What are the constituents of a solution of aqua regia?
13. What would 12 on the Beaufort scale indicate?
; 14. What is the Curie point?
15. Name three ways in which fungi reproduce. |
THE HERO 43
(The following is taken from the
files of the Medical Disciplinary
Board, Hospital Earth, from the
preliminary hearings in re: The
Profession vs. Samuel B. Jenkins,
Physician; First Court of Medical
Affairs, final action pending.)
COM GOD S221VB73 VORO-
GHISLOV SECTOR; 4th GA-
LACTIC PERIOD 22, 2341 GEN-
ERAL SURVEY SHIP MERCY
TO HOSPITAL EARTH
VIA: FASTEST POSSIBLE
ROUTING, PRIORITY UN-
TO: Lucius Darby, Physician
Grade I, Black Service Director
of Galactic Periphery Services,
FROM: Samuel B. Jenkins, Physi-
cian Grade VI, Red Service Gen-
eral Practice Patrol Ship Lancet
(Attached GSS Mercy pro tem)
SIR : The following communication
is directed to your attention in
hopes that it may anticipate vari-
ous charges which are certain to be
placed against me as a Physician of
the Red Service upon the return of
the General Survey Ship Mercy to
Hospital Earth (expected arrival
four months from above date) .
These charges will undoubtedly
be preferred by one Turvold Neel-
sen, Physician Grade II of the
Black Service, and Commander of
the Mercy on its current survey
mission into the Vorochislov Sec-
tor. Exactly what the charges will
be I cannot say, since the Black
Doctor in question refuses either
Illustrated by Ed Emsh
BY ALAN E. NOURSE
Orders were orders! The creature had to he killed.
But just how does one destroy the indestructible?
audience or communication with
me at the present time; however, it
seems likely that treason, incom-
petence and mutinous insubordina-
tion will be among the milder com-
plaints registered. It is possible that
even Malpractice might be added,
so you can readily understand the
reasons for this statement —
The following will also clarify
my attached request that the GSS
Mercy, upon arrival in orbit
around Hospital Earth, be met im-
mediately by a decontamination
ship carrying a vat of hydrochloric
acid, concentration 3.7%, measur-
ing no less than twenty by thirty by
fifty feet, and that Quarantine offi-
cials be prepared to place the en-
tire crew of the Mercy under physi-
cal and psychiatric observation for
a period of no less than six weeks
The facts, in brief, are as fol-
Three months ago, as crew of
the General Practic Patrol Ship
Lancet, my colleague Green Doc-
tor Wallace Stone and myself be-
gan investigating certain peculiar
conditions existing on the fourth
planet of Mauki, Vorochislov Sec-
tor (Class I Medical Service Con-
tract.) The entire population of
that planet was found to be suffer-
ing from a mass psychotic delusion
of rather spectacular proportions:
namely, that they and their entire
planet were in imminent danger of
being devoured, in toto, by an in-
destructible non-humanoid crea-
ture which they called a hlorg.
The Maukivi were insistent that a
hlorg had already totally con-
sumed a non-existent outer planet
in their system, and was now hard
at work on neighboring Mauki V.
It was their morbid fear that
Mauki IV was next on its list. No
amount of reassurance could con-
vince them of the foolishness of
these fears, although we exhausted
our energy, our patience, and our
food and medical supplies in the
effort. Ultimately we referred the
matter to the Grey Service, feeling
confident that it was a psychiatric
problem rather than medical or
surgical. We applied to the GSS
Mercy to take us aboard to replen-
ish our ship's supplies, and provide
us a much-needed recovery period.
The Black Doctor in command ap-
proved our request and brought us
The trouble began two days
later. . .
THERE WERE THREE classes
of dirty words in use by the
men who travelled the spaceways
back and forth from Hospital
There were the words you sel-
dom used in public, but which were
colorful and descriptive in private
Then there were the words
which you seldom used even in pri-
vate, but which effectively relieved
feelings when directed at mirrors,
inanimate objects, and people who
had just left the room.
Finally, there were the words
that you just didn't use, period.
You knew they existed; you'd
heard them used at one time or an-
other, but to hear them spoken out
in plain Earth-English was enough
ALAN E. NOURSE
to rock the most space-hardened of
the Galactic Pill Peddlers back on
his well-worn heels.
Black Doctor Turvold Neelsen's
Earth-English was spotty at best,
but the word came through with-
out any possibility of misinterpreta-
tion. Red Doctor Sam Jenkins
stared at the little man and felt his
face turning as scarlet as the lining
of his uniform cape.
"But that's ridiculous!" he final-
ly stammered. "Quite aside from
the language you use to suggest it."
"Ah! So the word still has some
punch left, eh? i\t least you puppies
bring something away from your
Medical Training, even if it's only
taboos." The Black Doctor scowled
across the desk at Jenkins' lanky
figure. "But sometimes, my good
Doctor, it is better to face a fact
than to wait for the fact to face you.
Sometimes we have to crawl out of
our ivory towers for a minute or
two — you know?"
Jenkins reddened again. He had
never had any great love for phy-
sicians of the Black Service — who
did? — but he found himself dislik-
ing this short, blunt-spoken man
even more cordially than most.
"Why implicate the Lancet?" he
burst out. "You've landed the
Mercy on plenty of planets before
we brought the Lancet aboard
"But we did not have it with us
before the Lancet came aboard,
and we do have it now. The im-
plication is obvious. You have
brotight aboard a contaminant."
He'd said it again.
Red Doctor Jenkin's face dark-
ened. "The Green Doctor and I
have maintained the Lancet in per-
fect conformity with the Sterility
Code. We've taken every precau-
tion on both landing and disem-
barking procedures. What's more,
we've spent the last three months
on a planet with no mutually com-
patible flora or fauna. From Hos-
pital Earth viewpoint, Mauki IV is
sterile. We made only the briefest
check-stop on Mauki V before join-
ing you. It was a barren rock, but
we decontaminated again after
leaving. If you have a — a contami-
nant on board your ship, sir, it
didn't come from the Lancet. And
I won't be held responsible."
It was strong language to use to
a Black Doctor, and Sara Jenkins
knew it. There were doctors of the
Green and Red Services who had
spent their professional lives on
some god-forsaken planetoid at the
edge of the Galaxy for saying less.
Red Doctor Sam Jenkins was too
near the end of his Internship, too
nearly ready for his first Permanent
Planetary Appointment with the
rank, honor, and responsibility it
carried to lightly risk throwing it to
the wind at this stage —
But a Red Doctor does not bring
a contaminant aboard a survey
ship, he thought doggedly, no mat-
ter what the Black Doctor says —
Neelsen looked at the young man
slowly. Then he shrugged. "Of
course, I'm merely a pathologist. I
realize that we know nothing of
medicine, nor of disease, nor of the
manner in which disease is spread.
All this is beyond our scope. But
perhaps you'll permit one simple
question from a dull old man, just
to humor him."
Jenkins looked at the floor. "I'm
"Just so. You've had a very suc-
cessful cruise this year with the
Lancet, I understand."
"A most successful cruise. Four
planets elevated from Class IV to
Class H contracts, they tell me.
Morua II elevated from Class VI
to Class I, with certain special rid-
ers. A plague-panic averted on Set-
man I, and a very complex virus-
bacteria symbiosis unravelled on
Orb III. An illustrious record. You
and your colleague from the Green
Service are hoping for a year's ex-
emption from training, I imag-
ine — " The Black Doctor looked up
sharply. "You searched your holds
after leaving the Mauki planets, I
Jenkins blinked. "Why — no, sir.
That is, we decontaminated accord-
ing to — "
"I see. You didn't search your
holds. I suppose you didn't notice
your food supplies dwindling at an
"No—" The Red Doctor hesi-
tated. "Not really."
"Ah." The Black Doctor closed
his eyes wearily and flipped an ac-
tivator switch. The scanner on the
far wall buzzed into activity. It
focussed on the rear storage hold
of the Mercy where the little
Lancet was resting on its landing
rack. "Look closely, Doctor."
At first Jenkins saw nothing.
Then his eye caught a long, pink
glistening strand lying across the
floor of the hold. The scanner
picked up the strand, followed it to
the place where it emerged from a
neat pencil-sized hole in the hull of
the Lancet. The strand snaked com-
pletely across the room and disap-
peared through another neat hole
in the wall into the next storage
Jenkins shook his head as the
scanner flipped back to the hole
in the Lancet's hull. Even as he
watched, the hole enlarged and a
pink blob began to emerge. The
blob kept coming and coming until
it rested soggily on the edge of the
hole. Then it teetered and fell splat
on the floor.
"Friend of yours?" the Black
Doctor asked casually.
It was a pink heap of jelly just
big enough to fill a scrub bucket. It
sat on the floor, quivering noxious-
ly. Then it sent out pseudopods in
several directions, probing the
metal floor. After a few moments it
began oozing along the strand of
itself that lay on the floor, and
squeezed through the hole into the
"Ugh," said Sam Jenkins, feeling
"The hydroponic tanks are in
there," the Black Doctor said.
"You've seen one of those before?"
"Not in person." Jenkins shook
his head weakly. "Only pictures.
It's a hlorg. We thought it was only
a Maukivi persecution fantasy."
"This thing is growing pretty
fast for a persecution fantasy. We
spotted it eight hours ago, demol-
ishing what was left of your food
supply. It's twice as big now as it
"Well, we've got to get rid of it,"
said Jenkins, suddenly coming to
ALAN E. NOURSE
"I'll get the survey crew alerted
right away. We won't waste a min-
ute. And my apologies." Jenkins
was hurrying for the door. ''I'll get
it cleared out of here fast."
"I do hope so," said the Black
Doctor. "The thing makes me ill
just to think about."
"I'll give you a clean-ship report
in twenty-four hours," the Red
Doctor said as confidently as he
could and beat a hasty retreat
down the corridor. He was wishing
fervently that he felt as confident
as he sounded.
The Maukivi had described the
hlorg in excruciating detail. He and
Green Doctor Stone had listened,
and smiled sadly at each other, day
after day, marvelling at the fanci-
ful delusion. Hlorgs, indeed! And
such creatures to dream up — eat-
ing, growing, devouring plant, ani-
mal and mineral without discrim-
And the Maukivi had stoutly
maintained that this hlorg of theirs
was indestructible —
GREEN DOCTOR Wally
Stone, true to his surgical call-
ing, was a man of action.
"You mean there is such a
thing?" he exploded when his part-
ner confronted him with the news.
"For real? Not just somebody's
"There is," said Jenkins, "and
we've got it. Here. On board the
Mercy. It's eating like hell-and-
gone and doubling its size every
"Well what are you waiting for?
Toss it overboard!"
"Fine! And what happens to the
next party it happens to land on?
\A^e're supposed to be altruists, re-
member? We're supposed to worry
about the health of the Galaxy."
Jenkins shook his head. "Whatever
we do with it, we have to find out
just what we're tossing before we
The creature had made itself at
home aboard the Mercy. In the
spirit of uninvited guests since time
immemorial, it had established a
toehold with remarkable asperity,
and now was digging in for the long
winter. Drawn to the hydroponic
tanks like a flea to a dog', the hlorg
had settled its bulbous pink body
down in their murky depths with a
contented gurgle. As it grew larger
the tank-levels grew lower, the
The fact that the twenty-five
crewmen of the Mercy depended
on those tanks for their food sup-
ply on the four-month run back to
Hospital Earth didn't seem to
bother the hlorg a bit. It just sank
down wetly and began to eat.
Under Jenkins' whip hand, and
with Green Doctor Stone's assist-
ance, the Survey Crew snapped
into action. Survey was the soul
and lifeblood of the medical serv-
ices supplied by Hospital Earth to
the inhabited planets of the Gal-
axy. Centuries before, during the
era of exploration, every Earth ship
had carried a rudimentary Survey
Crew — a physiologist, a biochemist,
an immunologist, a physician — to
determine the safety of landings on
unknown planets. Other races were
more advanced in technological
and physical sciences, in sales or in
merchandising — but in the bio-
logical sciences men of Earth
stood unexcelled in the Galaxy. It
was not surprising that their casual
offerings of medical services wher-
ever their ships touched had led
to a growing demand for those
services, until the first Medical
Service Contract with Deneb III
had formalized the planetary
specialty. Earth had become Hos-
pital Earth, physician to a Galaxy,
surgeon to a thousand worlds, mid-
wife to those susceptible to mid-
wifery and psychiatrist to those
whose inner lives zigged when their
outer lives zagged.
In the early days it had been a
haphazard arrangement; but grad-
ually distinct Services appeared to
handle problems of medicine, sur-
gery, radiology, psychiatry and all
the other functions of a well-ap-
pointed medical service. Under the
direction of the Black Service of
Pathology, Hospital ships and Sur-
vey ships were dispatched to serve
as bases for the tiny General
Practice Patrol ships that answered
the calls of the planets under Con-
But it was the Survey ships that
did the basic dirty-work on any
new planet taken under Contract —
outlining the physiological and
biochemical aspects of the races in-
volved, studying their disease pat-
terns, their immunological types,
their susceptibility to medical,
surgical, or psychiatric treatment.
It was an exacting service to per-
form, and Survey did an exacting
Now, with their own home base
invaded by a hungry pink jelly-
blob, the Survey Crew of the
Mercy dug in with all fours to find
a way to exorcise it.
The early returns were not en-
Bowman, the anatomist, spent
six hours with the creature. He'd
go after the functional anatomy
first, he thought, as he approached
the task with gusto. Special organs,
vital organ systems — after all,
every Achilles had his heel. Func-
tional would spot it if anything
Six hours later he rendered a
preliminary report. It consisted of
a blank sheet of paper and an ex-
pression of wild frustration.
"What's this supposed to mean?"
Jenkins asked. ,
"Just what it says."
"But it says nothing!"
"That's exactly what it means."
Bowman was a thin, wistful-looking
man with a hawk nose and a little
brown mustache. He subbed as
ship's cook when things were slow
in his specialty. He wasn't a very
good cook, but what could any-
one do with the sludge from the
harvest shelf of a hydroponic tank?
Now, with the hlorg incumbent,
there wasn't even any sludge.
"I drained off a tank and got
a good look at it before it crawled
over into the next one," Bowman
said. "Ugly bastard. But from a.
strictly anatomical standpoint I
can't help you a bit."
Green Doctor Stone glowered
over Jenkins' shoulder at the man.
"But surely you can give us some-
Bowman shrugged. "You want it
ALAN E. NOURSE
"Any way you like."
"Your hlorg is an ideal ana-
moi-ph. A nothing. Protoplasm, just
Jenkins looked up sharply.
"What about his cellular organiza-
"No cells," said Bowman. "Un-
less they're sub-microscopic, and
I'd need an electron-peeker to tell
"No organ systems?"
"Not even an integument. You
saw how slippery he looked? That's
why. 1'here's nothing holding him
in hut energy."
"Now, look," said Stone. "He
eats, doesn't he? He mtist have
waste materials of some sort."
Bowman shook his head unhap-
pily. "Sorry. No la-ates. No nitrates.
No CO2. Anyway, he doesn't eat
because he has nothing to eat with.
He absorbs. And that includes the
lining of the tanks, which he seems
to like as much as the contents. He
doesn't bore those holes he makes
— he dissolves them."
They sent Bowman back to
quarters for a hot bath and a shot
of Happy-O and looked up Hrimta,
Hrunta was glaring at paper
electrophoretic patterns and pulling
out chunks of hair around his bald
spot. He gave them a snarl and
shoved a sheaf of papers into their
"Metabolic survey?" Jenkins
"Plus," said Hrunta. "You're
not going to like it, either."
"Why not? If it grows, it metab-
olizes. If it metabolizes we can
kill it. Axiom number seventeen,
])aragraph number four."
"Oh, it metabolizes, all right, but
you'd better find yourself another
axiom, pretty quick."
"Because it not only metabolizes,
it consumes. There's no sign of the
usual protein-carbohydrate-fat me-
tabolism going on here. This baby
has an enzyme system that's straight
from hell. It bypasses the usual
metabolic activities that produce
heat and energy and gets right
down to basic-basic."
Jenkins swallowed. "What do
"It attacks the nuclear structure
of whatever matter the creature
comes in contact with. There's a
partial mass-energy conversion in
its rawest form. The creature goes
after carbon-bearing substances
first, since the C seems to break
down more easily than anything else
— hence its preference for plant and
animal material over non-C stuff.
But it can use anything if it has
Jenkins stared at the little bio-
chemist, an image in his mind of
the pink creature in the hold, grow-
ing larger by the minute as it ate
its way through the hydroponics,
through the dry stores, through —
"Is there anything it can't use?"
"If there is, I haven't found it,"
Hrunta said sadly. "In fact, I can't
see any reason why it couldn't con-
sume this ship and everything in it,
right down to the last rivets — "
THEY WALKED DOWN to
the hold for another look at
their uninvited guest, and almost
wished they hadn't.
It had reached "the size of a
small hippopotamus, although the
resemblance ended there. Twenty
hours had efapsed since the survey
had begun. The hlorg had used
every minute of it, draining the
tanks, engulfing dry stores, devour-
ing walls and floors as it spread out
in search of food, leaving trails of
eroded metal wherever it went.
It was ugly — ugly in its pink
shapelessness, ugly in its slimey half-
sentient movements, in its very pur-
posefulness. But its ugliness went
even deeper, stirring primordial
feelings of revulsion and loathing in
their minds as they watched it
oozing implacably across the hold
to another dry-storage bin.
Wally Stone shuddered. "It's
"Too fast. Bowman charts it as
Stone scratched his jaw as a
lone pink pseudopod pushed out
on the floor toward him. Then he
leaped forward and stamped on it,
severing the strand from the body.
The severed member quivered
and lay still for a moment. Then it
flowed back to rejoin the body with
a wet gurgle.
Stone looked at his half-dis-
"Egotropism," Jenkins said.
"Bowman played around with that,
too. A severed piece will rejoin if
it can. If it can't it just takes up
independent residence and we have
"What happens to it outside
the ship?" Stone wanted to know.
"It falls dormant for several
hours, and then splits up into a
thousand independent chunks. One
of the boys spent half of yesterday
out there gathering them up. I tell
you, this thing is equipped to sur-
"So are we," said Green Doctor
Stone grimly. "If we can't out-
wit this free-flowing gob of obsceni-
ty, we deserve anything we get.
Let's have a conference."
They met in the pilot room. The
Black Doctor was there; so were
Bowman and Hrunta. Chambers,
the physiologist, was glumly clasp-
ing and unclasping his hands in a
corner. The geneticist, Piccione,
drew symbols on a scratch pad and
stared blankly at the wall.
Jenkins was saying: "Of course,
these are only preliminary reports,
but they serve to outline the prob-
lem. This is not just an annoyance
any longer, it's a crisis. We'd all
better understand that."
The Black Doctor cut him off'
with a wave of his hand, and
glowered at the papers as he read
them through minutely. As he sat
hunched at the desk with the black
cowl of his office hanging down
from his shoulders he looked like
a squat black judge, Jenkins
thought, a shadow from the In-
quisition, a Passer of Spells. But
there was no medievalism in Black
Doctor Neelsen. In fact, it was for
that reason, and only that reason,
that the Black Service had come
to be the leaders and the whips,
the executors and directors of all
the manifold operations of Hospital
The physicians of the General
ALAN E. NOURSE
Practice Patrol were fledglings,
newly trained in their specialties,
inexperienced in the rigorous dis-
cipline of medicine that was re-
quired of the directors of perma-
nent Planetary Dispensaries in the
heavily populated systems of the
Galaxy. On outlying worlds where
little was known of the ways of
medicine, the temptation was great
to substitute faith for knowledge,
cant for investigation, nonsense
rituals for hard work. But the
physicians of the Black Service
were always waiting to jerk wan-
dering neophytes back to the scien-
tific disciplines that made the serv-
ice of Hospital Earth so effective.
The Black Doctors would not
tolerate sloppiness. "Show me the
tissue, Doctor," they would say.
"Prove to me that what you say
is so. Prove that what you did was
valid medicine . . ." Their labora-
tories were the morgues and autop-
sy rooms of a thousand planets, the
Temples of Truth from which no
physician since the days of Pasteur
and Lister could escape for long
and retain his position.
The Black Doctors were the
pragmatists, the gadffys of Hospital
For this reason it was surprising
to hear Black Doctor Neelsen say-
ing, "Perhaps we are being too
scientific, just now. When the
creature has exhausted our food
stores, it will look elsewhere for
food. Perhaps we must cut at the
tree and not at the root."
"A frontal attack?" said Jenkins.
"Just so. Its enzyme system is
its vulnerabihty. Enzyme systems
operate under specific optimum
conditions, right? And every known
enzyme system can be inactivated
by adverse conditions of one sort
or another. A physical approach
may tell us how in this case. Mean-
while we will be on emergency
rations, and hope that we don't
starve to death finding out." The
Black Doctor paused, looking at
the men around him. "And in case
you are thinking of enlisting help
from outside, forget it. I've sent
plague-warnings out for Galactic
relay. We have this thing isolated,
and we're going to keep it that
way as long as I command this
They went gloomily back to their
laboratories to plan their frontal
That was the night that Hrunta
HE WAS GONE when they
came to wake him from his
sleep period. His bunk had been
slept in, but he wasn't in it. In
fact, he wasn't anywhere on the
"But he couldn't just vanish!"
the Black Doctor burst out when
they told him the news. "Maybe
he's hiding somewhere. Maybe this
business was working on his mind."
Green Doctor Stone took a crew
of men to search the ship again,
even though he considered it a
waste of precious time. He had his
private convictions about where
Hrunta had gone.
So did every other man on the
ship, including Jenkins.
The hlorg had stopped eating.
Huge and round and wet and ugly,
it squatted in the after hold, quiver-
ing gently, without any other sign
Surfeited. Like a fat man after
a turkey dinner.
Jenkins reviewed progress with
the others. No stone had been left
unturned. They had sliced the
hlorg, and squeezed it. They had
boiled it and frozen it. They had
dropped chunks of it in acid vats
and covered other chunks with
dessicants and alkalis. Nothing
seemed to bother it.
A cold environment slowed down
its activity, true, but it also stimu-
lated the process of fission. Warmed
up again, the portions sucked back
together again and resumed eating.
Heat was a little more effective,
but not much. It stunned the
creature for a brief period, but it
would not burn. It hissed fright-
fully and gave off an overpowering
stench, and curled up at the edges,
but as soon as the heat was turned
off it began to recover.
In Hrunta's lab chunks of the
hlorg sat in a dozen vats on tables
and in sinks. Some contained
antibiotics, some concentrated
acids, some dessicants. In each vat
a blob of pink protoplasm wiggled
happily, showing no sign of dis-
comfiture. On another table were
the remains of Hrunta's (unsuc-
cessful) attempt to prepare an anti-
But no Hrunta.
"He was down there with the
thing all day," Bowman said sadly.
"He felt it was his responsibility,
really. Hrunta thought biochemis-
try was the answer to all things, of
course. Very conscientious man."
"But he was in bed."
"He claimed he did his best
thinking in bed. Maybe he had a
brainstorm and went down to try
it out, and — "
"Yes." Jenkins nodded sourly.
"And." He walked down the row
of vats. "You'd think that at least
concentrated sulphuric would des-
sicate it a little. But it's just formed
a crust of coagulated protein
around itself, and sits there — "
Bowman peered over his shoul-
der, his mustache twitching. "But
it does dessicate."
"If you use enough long enough."
"How about concentrated hydro-
"Same thing. Maybe a little
more effective, but not enough to
"Okay. Next we try combina-
tions. There's got to be something
the wretched beast can't tolerate — "
There was, of course.
Green Doctor Stone brought it
to Jenkins as he was getting ready
to turn in for a sleep period.
Jenkins had checked to make sure
double guards were posted in the
hlorg's vicinity, and jolted them
with Sleep-Not to keep them on
their toes. All the same, he tied a
length of stout cord around his
ankle just to make sure he didn't
do any sleepwalking. He was tying
it to the bunk when Stone came
in with a pan in his hand and a
peculiar look on his face.
"Take a look at this," he said.
Jenkins looked at the sickly
brown mass in the tray, and then
up at Stone. "Where did you find
ALAN E. NOURSE
"Down in the hold. Our lilorg
has broken precedent. It's rejected
something that it ate."
"Yeah. What is it?"
"I don't know. I'm taking it to
Neelsen for paraffin sections. But
I know what it looks like to me."
"Mm. I know." Jenkins felt sick.
Stone headed up to the path lab,
leaving the Red Doctor settled in
Ten minutes later Jenkins sat
bolt upright in the darkness. Fran-
tically he untied himself and slid
into his clothes. "Idiot!" he growled
to himself. "Seventh son of a
seventh son — "
Five minutes later he was star-
ing at the vats in Hnmta's labora-
tory. He found the one he was
looking for. A pink blob of hlorg
wiggled slowly around the bottom.
Jenkins drew a beaker of distilled
water and added it to the fluid in
the vat. It hissed and sputtered
and sent up quantities of acrid
steam. When the steam had cleared
away, Jenkins peered in eagerly.
The pink thing in the bottom was
turning a sickly violet. It had quit
wiggling. As Jenkins watched, the
violet color changed to mud grey,
then to black. He prodded it with
a stirring rod. There was no re-
With a whoop Jenkins buzzed
Bowman and Stone. "We've got it!"
he shouted to them when they ap-
peared. "Look! Look at it!"
Bowman poked and probed and
broke into a wide grin. The piece of
hlorg was truly and sincerely dead.
"It inactivates the enzyme system,
and renders the base protoplasm
vulnerable to anything that nor-
mally attacks it. \Vhat are we wait-
They began tearing the labora-
tory apart, searching for the right
bottles. The supply was discourag-
ingly small, but there was some in
stock. The three of them raced
down the corridor for the hold
where the hlorg was.
It took them three hours of angry
work to exhaust the supply. They
whittled chunks off the hlorg,
tossed them in pans of the deadly
fluid. With each slice they stopped
momentarily to watch it turn
violet, then black, as it died. The
hlorg, dwindling in size, sensed the
attack and slapped frantically at
their ankles, sending out angry
plumes of wet jelly, but they ducked
and dodged and whittled some
more. The hlorg quivered and gur-
gled and wept pinkish goo all over
the floor, but it grew smaller and
weaker with every whack.
"Hrunta must have spotted it
and come down here alone,"
Jenkins panted between slices.
"Maybe he slipped, lost his foot-
ing, I don't know — "
They continued to work until
the supply was exhausted. They had
reduced the hlorg to a quarter its
previous size. "Check the other labs,
see if they have some more," said
"I already have," Bowman said.
"They don't. This is it."
"But we haven't got it all killed.
There's still — " He pointed to the
thing quailing in the corner.
"I know. We're licked, that's all.
There isn't any more of the stuff
on the ship."
They stopped and looked at each
other suddenly. Then Jenkins said:
"Oh, yes there is."
There was silence. Bowman
looked at Stone, and Stone looked
at Bowman. They both looked at
Jenkins. "Oh, no. Sorry. I decline."
Stone shook his head slowly.
"But we have to! There's no
other way. If the enzyme system is
inactivated, it's just protoplasm^
there's no physiological or biochem-
ical reason — "
"You know what you can do
with your physiology and biochem-
istry," Bowman said succinctly.
"You can also count me out." He
left them and the hatchway clanged
"It'll be months before we get
back to Hospital Earth. We know
how we can hold it in check until
we get there."
Green Doctor Wally Stone
sighed. "Greater love hath no
man," he said wearily. "We'd better
go tell Neelsen, I guess."
BLACK DOCTOR Turvold
Neelsen's answer was a flat,
unequivocal no. "It's monstrous
and preposterous. I won't stand
for it. Nobody will stand for it."
"But you have the proof in your
own hands," Jenkins said. "You
saw the specimen that the Green
Doctor brought you."
Neelsen hunched back angrily.
"I saw it."
"And your impression of it? As
"I fail to see how my impression
applies one way or the other- — "
"Doctor, sometimes we have to
face facts. Remember?"
"All right." Neelsen seemed to
curl up into himself still further.
"The specimen was stomach."
"But the only human on this
ship that doesn't have a stomach is
Hrunta," said Jenkins.
"So the hlorg ate him."
"Most of him. Not quite all. It
threw out the one part of him it
couldn't eat. The part containing
a substance that inactivated its
enzyme system. Dilute hydrochloric
acid, to be specific. We used the
entire ship's supply, and cut the
hlorg down to three quarters size,
but we need a continuous supply
to keep it whittled down until we
get home. And there's only one
good, permanent, reliable source
of dilute hydrochloric acid on board
this ship — "
The Black Doctor's face was
purple. "I said no," he choked. "My
The Red Doctor sighed and
turned to Green Doctor Stone. "All
right, Wally," he said.
(From the files of the Medical
Disciplinary Board, Hospital Earth,
I am certain that you can see
from the foregoing that a reason-
able effort was made by Green
Doctor Stone and myself to put
the plan in effect peaceably and
with full approval of our com-
mander. It was our conviction,
however, that the emergency nature
ALAN E. NOURSE
of the circumstances required that
it be done with or without his
approval. Our subsequent success
in containing the hlorg to at least
reasonable and managable propor-
tions should bear out the wisdom of
Actually, it has not been as bad
as one might think. It has been
necessary to confine the crew to
their quarters, and to restrain the
Black Doctor forcibly, but with
liberal use of Happy-O we can oc-
casionally convince ourselves that
it is rare beefsteak, and the Green
Doctor, our pro-tem cook has con-
cocted several very tasty sauces,
such as mushroom, onion, etc. VVe
reduce the hlorg to half its size
each day, and if thoroughly heated
the chunks lie still on the plate for
quite some time.
No physical ill effects have been
noted, and the period of quarantine
is recommended solely to allow the
men an adequate period for phy-
I have only one further recom-
mendation: that the work team
from the Grey Service be recalled
at once from their assignment on
Mauki IV. The problem is decided-
ly not psychiatric, and it would be
one of the tragedies of the ages if
our excellent psychiatric service
were to succeed in persuading the
Maukivi out of their 'delusion'.
After all, Hospital Earth cannot
afford to jeopardize a Contract —
(Signed) Samuel B. Jenkins,
Physician Grade VI
GPP Ship Lancet
(Attached GSS Mercy
pro tem) END
A New Theme — One Never Before
Explored in Science Fiction
AN EXCITING new novelette in which Frank Riley again turns
to the legal field as a background. You remember The Cyber
and Justice Holmes — but this time Mr. Riley's theme is a star-
tlingly new one, one which has never before been explored in
science fiction. The title is A Question of Identity, and it poses a
question of human identity, in all its legal, emotional and social
aspects, that has no precedent. The editors of IF are proud to
present A Question of Identity, confident that you will find it
the most fascinating, unusual and thought-provoking science
fiction stories of 1958. It will be published in the April issue.
Don't miss it. Ask your news dealer to reserve your copy.
History was repeating itself; there were moats and
nobles in Pennsylvania and vassals in Manhattan
and the barbarian hordes were overrunning the land.
IT WAS JUST as he saw The Barbarian's squat black tankette
lurch hurriedly into a nest of boulders that young Giulion
Geoffrey realized he had been betrayed. With the muzzle of his
own cannon still hot from the shell that had jammed The Bar-
barian's turret, he had yanked the starboard track lever to wheel
into position for the fin-
ishing shot. All around
him, the remnants of
The Barbarian's invad- m 1_ M ■_ •
ing army were being cut IfliG DfllfOfll^lQIlS
to flaming ribbons by the
armored vehicles of the
Seaboard League. The
night was shot through gy JOHN SENTRY
by billows of cannon fire_,
and the din of laboring
engines, guns, and rent
metal was a cacophonic
climax to the Seaboard League's first decisive victory over the
inland invaders. Young Geoffrey could justifiably feel that he
would cap that climax by personally accounting for the greatest
of the inland barbarians; The Barbarian general himself. He
trained his sights on the scarlet bearpaw painted on the skewed
turret's flank, and laid his hand on the firing lever.
Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of another
tankette rushing up on his port side. He glanced at it, saw its
graceful handicrafting, and knew it for one of the League's own.
He could even see the insigne; the mailed heel trampling a stand
of wheat; Harolde Dugald, of the neighboring fief. Geoffrey was
on coldly polite terms with Dugald — he had no use for the other
man's way of treating his serfs — and now he felt a prickle of
Illustrated by Ed Emsh
indignant rage at this attempt to
usurp a share of his glory. He saw
Dugald's turret begin to traverse,
and hastily tried to get the finish-
ing shot into The Barbarian's
tankette before the other Leagues-
man could fire. But Dugald was not
aiming for The Barbarian. First he
had to eliminate Geoffrey from the
scene entirely. When he fired, at
almost point-blank range, the
world seemed to explode in
Somehow, no whistling shard of
metal actually hit him. But the
tankette, sturdy as it was, could not
hope to protect him entirely. He
was thrown viciously into the air,
his ribs first smashing into the side
of the hatch, and then he was
thrown clear, onto the rocky ground
of the foothills; agonized, stunned
to semi-consciousness, he lay feebly
beating at his smoldering tunic
while Dugald spun viciously by
him, almost crushing him under
one tread. He saw Dugald's tank-
ette plunge into the rocks after
The Barbarian, and then, suddenly,
the battle was beyond him. Dugald,
The Barbarian; all the thundering
might that had clashed here on the
eastern seaboard of what had, long
ago, been The United States of
America — all of this had suddenly,
as battles will, whirled off in a new
direction and left Giulion Geoffrey
to lie hurt and unconscious in the
He awoke to the trickle of cold
water between his teeth. His lips
bit into the threaded metal of a
canteen top, and a huge arm sup-
ported his shoulders. Broad shoul-
ders and a massive head loomed
over him against the stars. A rum-
bling, gentle voice said: "All right,
lad, now. swallow some before it's
He peered around him in the
night. It was as still as the bottom
of a grave. Nothing moved. He
drew a ragged breath that ended in ,
a sharp gasp, and the rumbling
voice said: "Ribs?"
He nodded and managed a
"Shouldn't wonder," the stran-
ger grunted. "I saw you jx)p out
of your tank like a cork coming out
of a wine bottle. That was a fair
shot he hit you. You're lucky." A
broad hand pressed him down as
the memory of Dugald's treachery
started him struggling to his feet.
"Hold still, lad. We'll give you a
chance to catch your breath and
wrap some bandages around you.
You'll live to give him his due, but
not tonight. You'll have to wait for
There was something in the
stranger's voice that Geoffrey rec-
ognized for the quality that made
men obey other men. It was com-
petence, self-assurance, and, even
more, the calm expression of good
sense. Tonight, Geoffrey needed
someone with that quality. He sank
back, grateful for the stranger's
help. "I'm Giulion Geoffrey of
Geoffrion," he said, "and indebted
to you. Who are you, stranger?"
The darkness rumbled to a deep,
rueful laugh. "In these parts, lad,
I'm not called by my proper name.
I'm Hodd Savage — the Barbarian.
And that was a fair knock you gave
Young Geoffrey's silence lasted
for a long while. Then he said in a
flat, distant voice: "Why did you
give me water, if you're going to
kill me anyway?"
The Barbarian laughed again,
this time in pure amusement. "Be-
cause I'm not going to kill you, ob-
viously. You're too good a cannon-
eer to be despatched by a belt
knife. No — no, lad, I'm not plan-
Tiing to kill anyone for some time.
All I want right now is to get out
of here and get home. I've got an-
other army to raise, to make up for
this pasting you Leaguesmen have
just given me."
"Next time, you won't be so
lucky," Geoffrey muttered. "We'll
see your hide flapping in the rain,
if you're ever foolish enough to raid
our lands again."
The Barbarian slapped his thigh.
"By God," he chuckled, "I knew it
wasn't some ordinary veal-fed
princeling that outmaneuvered
me!" He shook his head. "That
other pup had better watch out
for you, if you ever cross his path
again. I lost him in the rocks with
ease to spare. Bad luck your shot
smashed my fuel tanks, or I'd be
halfway home by now." The rolling
voice grew low and bitter. "No
sense waiting to pick up my men.
Not enough of 'em left to make a
"What do you mean, if 1 ever
cross Dugald's path again? I'll have
him called out ot trial by combat
the day I can ride a tankette once
"I wouldn't be too sure, lad,"
The Barbarian said gently. "What
does that look like, over there?"
Geoffrey turned his head to fol-
low the shadowy pointing arm, and
saw a flicker of light in the distance.
He recognized it for what it was; a
huge campfire, with the Leagues-
men's tankettes drawn up around
it. "They're dividing the spoils —
what prisoners there are, to work
the mills; whatever of your equip-
ment is still usable; your baggage
train. And so forth. What of it?"
"Ah, yes, my baggage train,"
The Barbarian muttered. "Well,
we'll come back to that. What else
do you suppose they're dividing?"
Geoffrey frowned. "Why — noth-
ing else. Wait!" He sat up sharply,
ignoring his ribs. "The fiefs of the
"Exactly. Your ramshackle little
League held together long enough
to whip us for the first time, but
now the princelings are dividing up
and returning to their separate
holdings. Once there, they'll go
back to peering cove1<)usly at each
other's lands, and maybe raid
amongst themselves a little, until I
come back again. And you're as
poor as a churchmouse at this mo-
ment, lad — no fief, no lands, no
title — unless there's an heir?"
Geoffrey shook his head distract-
edly. "No. I've not wed. It's as you
"And just try ,to get your prop-
erty back. No — no, it won't be so
easy to return. Unless you'd care to
be a serf on your own former hold-
"Dugald would have me killed,"
Geoffrey said bitterly.
"So there you are, lad. The only
advantage you have is that Dugald
thinks you're dead already — you
can be sure of that, or it would
have been an assassin, and not me,
that woke you. That's something, at
least. It's a beginning, but you'll
have to lay your plans carefully,
and take your time. I certainly
wouldn't plan on doing anything
until your body's healed and your
brain's had time to work."
Young Geoffrey blinked back the
tears of rage. The thought of losing
the town and lands his father had
left him was almost more than his
hot blood could stand. The mem-
ory of the great old Keep that
dominated the town, with its tapes-
tried halls and torchlit chambers,
was suddenly very precious to him.
He felt a sharp pang at the thought
that he must sleep in a field to-
night, like some skulking outlaw,
v/hile Dugald quite possibly got
himself drunk on GeofFrion wine
and snored his headache away on
the thick furs of Geoffrey's bed.
But The Barbarian was right.
Time was needed — and this meant
that, to a certain extent at least, his
lot and Savage's were thrown in to-
gether. The thought came to Geof-
frey that he might have chosen a
"Now, lad," The Barbarian said,
"as long as you're not doing any-
thing else, you might as well help
me with my problem."
The realization of just exactly
who this man was came sharply
back to young Geoffrey. "I won't
help you escape to your own lands,
if that's what you mean," he said
"I'll take good care of that my-
self, when the time comes," the
man answered drily. "Right now,
I've got something else in mind.
They're dividing my baggage train,
as you said. Now, I don't mind
that, seeing as most of it belonged
to them in the first place. I don't
mind it for this year, that is. But
there's something else one of you
cockerels will be wanting to take
home with him, and I've a mind
not to let him. There's a perfectly
good woman in my personal trailer,
and I'm going to get her. But if
we're going to do that and get clear
of this country by morning, we'd
better get to it."
Like every other yotmg man of
his time and place, Geoffrey had a
clear-cut sense of duty regarding
the safety and well-being of ladies.
He had an entirely different set of
attitudes toward women who were
not ladies. He had not the slightest
idea of which to apply to this case.
What sort of woman would The
Barbarian take to battle with him?
What sort of women would the in-
land barbarians have generally? He
had very little knowledge to go on.
The inlanders had been appearing
from over the westward mountains
for generations, looting and pillag-
ing almost at will, sometimes stay-
ing through a winter but usually
disappearing in the early Fall,
carr)dng their spoils back to their
mysterious homelands on the great
Mississippi plain. The seaboard
civilization had somehow kept
from going to its knees, in spite of
them — in this last generation, even
though the barbarians had The
Barbarian to lead them, the Sea-
board League had managed to cob-
ble itself together — but no one, in
all this time, had ever actually
learned, or cared, much about
these vicious, compactly organized
raiders. Certainly no one had
learned anything beyond those
facts which worked to best advan-
tage on a battlefield.
So, young Giulion Geoffrey faced
his problem. This 'perfectly good
woman' of The Barbarian's — was
she in fact a good woman, a lady,
and therefore entitled to aid in ex-
tremity from any and all gentle-
men; or was she some camp fol-
lower, entirely worthy of being con-
sidered a spoil of combat?
"Well, come on, Lad," The Bar-
barian rumbled impatiently at this
point. "Do you want that Dugald
enjoying her tonight along with
And that decided GeofTrey. He
pushed himself to his feet, not lik-
ing the daggers in his chest, but not
liking the thought of Dugald's
pleasures even more. "Let's go,
"Good enough. Lad," The Bar-
barian chuckled. "Now let's see
how quietly we can get across to
the edge of that fire."
They set out — none too quietly,
with The Barbarian's heavy bulk
lurching against Geoffrey's lean
shoulder on occasion, and both of
them uncertain of their footing in
the darkness. But they made it
across without being noticed — just
two more battle-sore figures in a
field where many such might be ex-
pected — and that was what
The noise and confusion attend-
ant on the dividing of the spoils
was an added help; they reached
the fringes of the campfire easily.
IT WAS VERY interesting, the
way history had doubled back on
itself, like a worm re-growing part
of its body but re-growing it in the
wrong place. At one end of the
kink — of the fresh, pink scar — was
a purulent hell of fire and smoke
that no one might have expected
to live through. Yet, people had, as
they have a habit of doing. And at
the other end of the kink in time —
Giulion Geoffrey's end, Harolde
Dugald's time, The Barbarian's
day — there were keeps and moats
in Erie, Pennsylvania, vassals in
New Brunswick, and a great stink-
ing warren of low, half-timbered
houses on the island of Manhattan.
If it had taken a few centuries
longer to recover from the cauteriz-
ing sun bombs, these things might
still have been. But they might have
had different names, and human
history might have been considered
to begin only a few hundred years
before. Even this had not hap-
pened. The link with the past re-
mained. There was a narrow, cob-
bled path on Manhattan, with sew-
age oozing down the ditch in its
center, wfiich was still Fifth Ave-
nue. It ran roughly along the same
directions as old Broadway, not be-
cause there was no one who could
read the yellowed old maps but be-
cause surveying was in its second
childhood. There was a barge run-
ning between two ropes stretched
across the Hudson, and this was
The George Washington Bridge
ferry. So, it was only a kink in his-
tory, not a break.
But Rome was not re-built in a
day. Hodd Savage — The Barbarian,
the man who had come out of the
Iiinterlands to batter on civiliza-
tion's badly mortared walls —
clamped his hand on Giulion Geof-
frey's arm, grunted, jerked his head
toward the cluster of nobles stand-
ing beside the campfire, and mut-
The nobles were between him
and the fire, and almost none of
them were more than silhouettes.
Here and there, a man faced to-
ward the fire at such an angle that
Geoffrey could make out the thick
arch of an eyebrow, the jut of a
cheek, or the crook of a nose. But
it was not enough for recognition.
All the nobles were dressed in bat-
tle accoutrements that had become
stained or torn. Their harness had
shifted, their tunics were askew,
and they were bunched so closely
that the outline of one man blended
into the mis-shaped shadow of the
next. The voices were hoarse from
an afternoon's bellowing. Some
were still drunk with the acid fire
of exhausted nerves, and were loud.
Others, drained, mumbled in the
backgi'ound like a chorus of the
stupid. Gesticulating, mumbling,
shouting, shadowed, lumped into
one knot of blackness lighted by a
ruddy cheekbone here, a gleaming
brow there above an eyesocket as
inky and blank as a bottomless pit,
they M'ere like something out of the
wan and misty ages before the
Earth had had time to form com-
Two arguing voices rose out of
"Those three barbarian tankettes
are mine., I say!"
"Yours when I lie dead!"
"They surrendered to me!"
"Because I pounded them into
"Into submission, indeed! You
skulked around their flanks like a
lame dog, and now that I've taken
them, you want your bone!"
"You were glad enough to see
me there when the battle was hot.
Call me a dog again and I'll spit
>ou like a rat on a pitchfork."
No one else in the group of
nobles paid the two of them any
attention. No one had time to spare
for any quarrel but his own, and
the whole squabbling pile of them
looked ready to fly apart at any mo-
ment—to draw sidearms and knives
and flare into spiteful combat.
The Barbarian spat quietly.
"There's your Seaboard League,
Lad. There's your convocation of
free men. Step out there and ask for
your lands back. Care to try?"
"We've already decided that
wouldn't be wise," Geoffrey said
iiritably. He had never cared much
for these inevitable aftermaths to
battle, but it made him angry to
have an inland barbarian make
pointed comments. "I suppose it's
different when you win, eh?"
"Not very. But then, we're not
civilized. Let's get moving. Lad."
Silently, they skirted the fire and
made their way toward the parked
vehicles of The Barbarian's cap-
tured supply train. The ground was
rough and covered by underbrush.
More than once. The Barbarian
stumbled into Geoffrey, making
him clench his jaw against the pain
in his chest. But he saw no point
in saying anything about it.
"There she is," The Barbarian
said in a husky growl. Geoffrey
peered through the brush at an
armored trailer whose flat sides
were completely undecorated ex-
cept for a scarlet bearpaw painted
on the door. A lantern gleamed
behind the slit windows, and The
Barbarian grunted with satisfac-
tion. "She's still in there. Fine. We'll
have this done in a couple of
In spite of the incongruity,
Geoffrey asked curiously: "What's
"A division of time, Lad — one
sixtieth of a minute."
"Oh. What on Earth would you
want to measure that accurately
"For getting women out of trail-
ers in a hurry. Lad. Now — let's look
There were two guarding the
trailer — men at arms from Du-
gald's holding, Geoffrey noticed —
carrying shotguns and lounging in
the shadows. One of them had a
wineskin — Geoffrey heard the gur-
gle plainly — and the other was con-
stantly turning away from the trail-
er to listen to the shrieks and shout-
ing coming from among the other
vehicles of the train, where other
guards were not being quite as
careful of their masters' new prop-
"I see they've found the quarter-
master's waggons," The Barbarian
said drily. "Now, then, Lad — you
work away toward the right, there,
and I'll take the left. Here — take
my knife. I won't need it." The
Barbarian passed over a length of
steel as big as a short-sword, but
oddly curved and sharpened down
one side of the blade. "Stab if you
can, but if you have to cut, that
blade'll go through a man's fore-
arm. Remember you're not holding
one of those overgrown daggers of
"And just why should I kill a
man for you?"
"Do you think that man won't
try to kill you?"
Geoffrey had no satisfactory an-
swer to that. He moved abruptly
off into the brush, holding The Bar-
barian's knife, and wondering just
how far he was obligated for a
bandaged chest and half a pint of
water. But a man's duty to his res-
cuer was plain enough, and, be-
sides, just what else was there to
The blame for it all went square-
ly back to Dugald, and Geoffrey
did not love him for it. He slipped
through the bushes until he was
only a few yards from the man who
had the wineskin, and waited for
The Barbarian to appear at the
opposite end of the trailer.
When it happened, it happened
quite suddenly, as these things will.
One moment the other sentry was
craning his neck for another look at
what was going on elsewhere. The
next he was down on his knees,
croaking through a compressed
throat, with The Barbarian's arm
under his chin and a driving knee
ready to smash at the back of his
Geoffrey jumped forward, to-
ward his own man. The man at
arms had dropped his wineskin in
surprise and was staring at what
was happening to his comrade.
When he heard Geoffrey come out
of the underbrush, the face he
turned was white and oddly dis-
tended with shock, as though all
the bones had drained out of it. He
might have appeared fierce enough,
ordinarily. But things were happen-
ing too fast for him.
Geoffrey had never killed any-
one but a noble in his life. Not in-
tentionally and at close range, in
any case. The completely bafHed
and helpless look of this one some-
how found time to remind him that
this was not, after all, one of his
peers — that the man was hopelessly
outclassed in fair combat — or in
anything else, for that matter.
Geoffrey did not stop to weigh the
probity of this idea. It was the cen-
tral tenet of his education and en-
vironment. Furthermore, there was
some truth in it.
He couldn't kill the man. He
swept up his arm and struck the
flat of The Barbarian's broad knife
against the side of the guard's head,
and bowled the man over with his
rush. But the guard had a hard
skull. He stared up with glazed but
conscious eyes, and squalled:
"Lord Geoffrey!" Geoffrey hit him
again, and this time the guard
stayed down, but the damage was
done. Scrambling to his feet, Geof-
frey ran over to The Barbarian,
who was letting the other guard
ooze to the ground.
"We'll have to hurry!" Geoffrey
panted. "Before that man comes
back to his senses."
The Barbarian gave him a dis-
gusted look, but nodded. "Hurry
we shall." He lurched to the trailer
door and slapped it with the flat
of his hand. "Let's go, Myka."
There was a scrambling sound
inside the trailer, and the light
went out. The door slid open, and
Geoffrey found himself staring at
the most beaiitifid woman he had
She was lithe almost to the point
of boyishness, even though she was
clearly some years older than Geof-
frey. She had short hair the color
of hammered copper, high cheek-
bones, and tawny eyes. She was
wearing a tunic and short trousers,
and there was an empty pistol hol-
ster strapped around her waist. Ob-
viously, she was not a lady. But it
was much too late for Geoffrey to
care about that. She stopped in
the doorway, shaking her head
slowly at The Barbarian. "I swear,
Hodd," she said in a low, laughing
voice, "one of these days you won't
come back from the dead, and I'll
"It was close enough, this time,"
The Barbarian growled. He jerked
his head toward Geoffrey. "That
young buck over there knows how
to handle his enemies. Once he
learns what to do about his friends,
I may have to retire."
Myka arched her burning eye-
brows. "Oh? What's the story be-
hind that, I'd like to know."
"We can always talk," Geoffrey
said a little edgily. "But we can't
always find an empty tankette."
"Quite right. Lad," The Bar-
barian said. "I saw some vehicles
parked over that way."
"Those belong to the nobles.
There ought to be some captured
ones of yours somewhere around
"With plenty of guards on them.
"That didn't trouble you earlier."
"Myka, as you may have noticed,
is more than a tank. This time the
prize isn't worth it. I'd rather just
slip over to where I can get trans-
portation for the choosing."
"Not with my help."
The Barbarian looked at him
and grunted. He seemed oddly dis-
appointed. "I would have bet the
other way," he muttered. Then the
shaggy head rose, and he circled
Myka's waist with one arm. "All
right, I'll do it without your help."
"Is Myka trained to drive a
tankette and fight at the same
"Then you'd better do it my way.
You'd make a poor showing, kick-
ing drive levers with a broken leg."
Geoffrey nodded toward The Bar-
barian's right shin. "It's been that
way since before you picked me up,
hasn't it? I saw it wobble when you
kneed that man at arms."
Myka looked at The Barbarian
sharply, worry on her face, but the
man was chuckling. "All right.
Bucko, we'll do it your way."
"Fine." Geoffrey wasn't so sure
it was. Suddenly he was committed
not only to helping The Barbarian
escape, but also to escape with him.
He was faintly surprised at himself.
But there was something about the
man. Something worth saving, no
matter what. And there was the
business now of having been recog-
nized. Once Dugald learned he was
still alive, there would be a con-
siderable amount of danger in stay-
ing in the vicinity. Of course, he
had only to stoop over the uncon-
scious guard with The Barbarian's
knife . . .
With a quick motion, he tossed
the weapon back to its owner.
That one was an easy choice,
Geoffrey thought. Simply stealing
— or was it recapturing? — a tank-
ette and using it to drive away with
Myka and The Barbarian didn't
mean he had to go all the way to
the barbarian lands with them. Let
the guard revive and run to Du-
gald with the news. All Geoffrey
had to do was to remove himself a
few miles, find shelter, and bide his
One recaptured barbarian tank-
ette might not even be missed. And
the guard might not be believed —
well, that was a thin hope — but, in
any case, no one had any reason to
suspect The Barbarian was still
alive. There'd be no general pur-
Well . . . maybe not. There was a
man at arms choked to death, by
a stronger arm than Geoffrey's, and
it was The Barbarian's woman who
would be missing. There might be
quite a buzz about that.
Geoffrey shook his head in im-
patient annoyance. This kind of
life demanded a great deal more
thinking than he was accustomed
to. All these unpredictable factors
made a man's head spin.
And then again, maybe they
didn't. The thing to do was to act,
to do what would get him out of
here now, and leave him free to-
morrow to do whatever thinking
tomorrow demanded. With a little
practice, too, thinking would un-
doubtedly come more easily.
"All right," he said decisively,
"let's get moving over in that di-
rection, and see if the guards
haven't gotten a little careless." He
motioned to Myka and The Bar-
barian, and began to lead the way
into the underbrush. He thrust out
a hand to pull a sapling aside, and
almost ran full-tilt into Harolde
Dugald was almost exactly Geof-
frey's age and size, but he had
something Geoffrey lacked — a thin-
lipped look of wolfish wisdom. His
dark eyes were habitually slitted,
and his mouth oddly off-center, al-
ways poised between a mirthless
grin and a snarl. His long black
hair curled under at the base of
his skull, and his hands were cov-
ered with heavy gold and silver
rings. There was one for each fin-
ger and thumb, and all of them
were set with knobby precious
His lips parted now, and his long
white teeth showed plainly in the
semi-darkness. "I was coming back
to inspect my prizes," he said in a
voice like a fine-bladed saw chuck-
ling through soft metal. "And look
what I've found." The open mouth
of his heavy, handmade side pistol
pointed steadily between Geoffrey's
eyes. "I find my erstwhile neighbor
risen from the dead, and in the
company of a crippled enemy and
his leman. Indeed, my day is com-
The one thing Geoffrey was not
feeling was fear. The wire-thin
strand of his accumulated rage was
stretched to breaking. Somewhere,
far from the forefront of his mind,
he was feeling surjjrise and disap-
pointment. He was perfectly aware
of Dugald's weapon, and of what it
would do to his head at this range.
But Geoffrey was not stopping to
think. And Dugald was a bit closer
to him than he ought to have been.
Geoffrey's hands seemed to leap
out. One tore the pistol out of
Dugald's hand and knocked it spin-
ning. The other cracked, open-
palmed, against the other man's
face, hard enough to split flesh and
start the blood trickling down Du-
gald's cheek. The force of the com-
bined blows sent Dugald stagger-
ing. He fell back, crashing into a
bush, and hung against it. Stark
fear shone in his eyes. He
screamed: "Dugald! Dugald! To
me! To me!"
For a second, ever)'thing went si-
lent; nobles quarreling, guards
roistering among the captures —
sliddenly the battlefield was still.
Then the reaction to the rallying
cry set off an entirely different kind
of hiibbub. The .sound now was
that of an alerted pack of dogs.
Once more, Geoffrey swept his
hand across Dugald's face, feeling
his own skin break over the
knuckles. But there was no time for
anything else. Now they had to
run, and not in silence. Now
everything went by the board, and
the nearest safety was the best. Be-
hind them as they tore through the
brush, they could hear Dugald
"That way! The Barbarian's
with him!" The Barbarian was
grunting with every step. Myka was
panting. Geoffrey was in the lead,
his throat burning with every
breath, not knowing where he was
leading them, but trying to skirt
around the pack of nobles that
would be running toward them in
He crashed against plated metal.
He peered at it in the absolute
darkness this far from the fires and
torches. "Tankette!" he said
hoarsely. "Empty." They scrambled
onto it, Geoffrey pulling at The
Barbarian's arm. "Down, Myka—
inside. Ought to be room between
steering posts and motor." He
pushed the woman down through
the hatch, and dropped back to
the ground. He ran to the crank
clipped to one track housing and
thrust it into place. "You — you'll
have to hang onto — turret," he
panted to The Barbarian. "Help
me start." He wound furiously at
the starting crank until he felt the
flywheel spin free of the ratchet,
and then engaged the driveshaft.
The tankette shuddered to the sud-
den torque. The motor resisted,
turned its shaft reluctantly, spun
the magneto, ignited, stuttered,
coughed, and began to roar. The
headlights flickered yellowly,
glowed up to brightness as the en-
gine built up revolutions. The Bar-
barian, clinging to the turret with
one arm, pushed the choke control
back to halfway and advanced the
spark. Geoffrey scrambled up the
sharply pitched rear deck, clawing
for handholds on the radiator tub-
ing, and dropped into the turret
seat. He took the controls, kicked
at the left side track control with-
out caring, for the moment,
whether Myka was in the way or
not, spun the tankette halfway
round, and pulled the throttle out
as far as it would go. Its engine
clamoring, its rigid tracks transmit-
ting every shock and battering
them, the tankette flogged forward
through the brush. There was gun-
fire booming behind them, and
there were other motors sputtering
There was no one among the
nobles to drive as well as Geoffrey
could — certainly no one who could
keep up with him at night, in coun-
try he knew. He could probably de-
pend on that much.
He lit the carbide lamp over the
Geoffrey looked at the crest
worked into the metal, and
laughed. He had even managed to
steal Dugald's tankette.
BY MORNING, they were a
good fifty miles away from
where the battle had been fought.
They were almost as far as the
Delaware River, and the ground
was broken into low hills, each a
little higher than the last. Geoffrey
had only been this far away from
his home a few times, before his
father's death, and then never in
this direction. Civilization was not
considered to extend this far inland.
When a young man went on his
travels, preparatory for the day
when he inherited his father's hold-
ings and settled down to maintain
them, he went along the coast, per-
haps as far as Philadelphia or Hart-
Geoffrey had always had a lively
interest in strange surroundings. He
had regretted the day his joumey-
ings came to an end — not that he
hadn't regretted his father's pass-
ing even more. Now, as dawn came
up behind them, he could not help
turninsf his head from side to side
and looking at the strangely
humped land, seeing for the first
time a horizon which was not flat.
He foimd himself intrigued by the
ihoLight that he had no way of
knowing what lay beyond the next
hill — that he would have to travel,
and keep traveling, to satisfy a per-
petually renewed curiosity.
All this occupied one part of his
mind. Simultaneously, he wondered
how much farther they'd travel in
this vehicle. The huge sixteen cylin-
der in-line engine was by now de-
livering about one-fourth of its
rated fifty horsepower, with a good
half of its spark plugs hopelessly
fouled and the carburetor choked
by the dust of yesterday's battle.
They were very low on shot and
powder charges for the two-
pounder turret cannon, as well.
The tankette had of course never
been serviced after the battle.
There was one good thing — neither
had their pursuers'. Looking back,
Geoffrey could see no sign of them.
But he could also see the plain im-
print of the tankette's steel cleats
stretched out behind them in a
betraying line. The rigid, unsprung
track left its mark on hard stone
as easily as it did in soft earth. The
wonder was that the tracks had not
quite worn themselves out as yet,
thovigh all the rivets were badly
strained and the tankette sounded
like a barrel of stones tumbling
The Barbarian had spent the
night with one arm thrown over
the cannon barrel and the fingers
of his other hand hooked over the
edge of the turret hatch. In spite
of the tankette's vicious jouncing,
he had not moved or changed his
position. Now he raised one hand
to comb the shaggy hair away from
his forehead, and there were faint
bloody marks on the hatch.
"How much farther until we're
over the mountains?" Geoffrey
"Over the — Lad, we haven't
even come to the beginning of them
GeofTrey grimaced. "Then we'll
never make it. Not in this vehicle."
"I didn't expect to. We'll walk
until we reach the pass. I've got a
support camp set up there."
"Walk? This is impossible coun-
try for people on foot. There are in-
transigent tribesmen all through
"How do you know?"
"How do I know? Why, every-
body knows about them!"
The Barbarian looked at him
thoughtfully, and with Just the
faintest trace of amusement. "Well,
if everybody knows they're intransi-
gent, I guess they are. I guess we'll
just have to hope they don't spot
Geoffrey was a little nettled by
The Barbarian's manner. It wasn't,
after all, as if anybody claimed
there were dragons or monsters or
any other such oceanic thing living
here. This was good, solid fact —
people had actually come up here,
tried to bring civilization to the
tribes, and failed completely. They
were, by all reports, hairy, dirty
people equipped with accurate
rifles. No one had bothered to press
the issue, because obviously it was
hardly worth it. Geoffrey had ex-
pected to have trouble with them
— but he had expected to meet it in
an armored vehicle. But now that
the mountains had turned out to be
so far away, the situation might
grow quite serious. And The Bar-
barian didn't seem to care very
"Well, now, Lad," he was say-
ing, "if the tribesmen're that bad,
maybe your friends the nobles
won't dare follow us up here."
"They'll follow us," Geoffrey
answered flatly. "I slapped Du-
"Oh. Oh, I didn't understand
that. Code of honor — that sort of
thing. All the civilized appurte-
"It's hardly funny."
"No, I suppose not. I don't sup-
pose it occurred to you to kill him
on the spot?"
"Kill a noble in hot blood?"
"Sorry. Code of honor again.
Forget I mentioned it."
Geoffrey rankled under The
Barbarian's barely concealed
amusement. To avoid any more of
this kind of thing, he pointedly
turned and looked at the terrain
behind them — something he ought
to have done a little earlier. Three
tankettes were in sight, only a few
miles behind them, laboring down
the slope of a hill.
And at that moment, as though
rivetted iron had a dramatic sense
of its own, their tankette coughed,
spun lazily on one track as the
crankshaft paused with a cam
squarely between positions, and
burned up the last drops of oil and
alcohol in its fuel tank.
Geoffrey and Myka crouched
down in a brushy hollow. The Bar-
barian had crawled up to the lip
of the depression, and was peering
through a clump of weeds at the
oncoming trio. "That seems to be
all of them," he said with a turn
of his head. "It's possible they kept
their speed down and nursed them-
selves along to save fuel. They
might even have a fuel waggon
coming up behind them. That's the
way I'd do it. It would mean these
three are all we can expect for a
few hours, anyway, but that they'll
be heavily reinforced some time
"That will hardly matter," Geof-
frey muttered. Myka had found
Dugald's personal rifle inside the
tankette. Geoffrey was rolling car-
tridges quickly and expertly, using
torn up charges from the turret
cannon. He had made the choice
between a round or two for the
now immobile heavy weapon and a
plentiful supply for the rifle, and
would have been greatly surprised
at anyone's choosing differently.
The Barbarian had not even ques-
tioned it, and Myka was skillfully
casting bullets witK the help of the
hissing alcohol stove and the bullet
mold included in the rifle kit. There
was plenty of finely ground prim-
ing powder, and even though Geof-
frey was neither weighing the
charges of cannon powder nor
measuring the diameter of the car-
tridges he was rolling, no young
noble of any pretensions whatso-
ever could not have done the same.
The rub lay in the fact that none
of this was liable to do them much
good. If they were to flee through
the woods, there would certainly be
time for only a shot or two when
the tribesmen found them. If the
rifle was to be used against the
three nobles, then it was necessary,
in all decency, to wait until the
nobles had stopped, climbed out of
their tankettes, equipped them-
selves equally, and a mutual ground
of battle had been agreed upon. In
that case, three against one would
make short work of it.
The better chance lay with the
woods and the tribesmen. It was
the better chance, but Geoffrey did
not relish it. He scowled as he
dropped a primer charge down the
rifle's barrel, followed it with a car-
tridge, took a cooled bullet from
Myka, and tamped it down with
the ramrod until it was firmly
gripped by the collar on the car-
tridge. He took a square of clean
flannel from its compartment in
the butt and carefully wiped the
lenses of the telescopic sight.
"Can I stop now?" Myka asked.
Geoffrey looked at her sharply. It
had never occurred to him that the
woman might simply be humoring
him, and yet that was the tone her
voice had taken. Truth to tell, he
had simply handed her the stove,
pig lead, and mold, and told her
to go to work.
He looked at her now, remem-
bering that he'd been hurried and
possibly brusque. It ought not to
matter — though it did — since she
was hardly a lady entitled to cour-
tesy. She hardly looked like any-
thing, after hours crouched inside
Her copper hair was smeared
with grease, disarranged, and even
singed where she had presumably
leaned against a hot fitting. Her
clothes were indescribably dirty and
limp with perspiration. She was
quite pale, and seemed to be fight-
ing nausea — hardly surprising, with
the exhaust fumes that must have
been present in the compartment.
Nevertheless, her hair glinted
where the sun struck it, and her
litheness was only accented by the
wrinkled clothing. Over-accented,
Geoffrey thought to himself as he
looked at the length of limb re-
vealed by her short trousers.
He flushed. "Of course. Thank
you." He looked at the pile of fin-
ished bullets. There were enough of
them to stand off an army, pro-
vided only the army did not shift
about behind rocks and trees as
the tribesmen did, or was not equal-
ly armed, as the nobles would be.
Yet, a man had to try to the end.
"You don't expect this to do much
good," he said to the woman.
Myka grinned at him. "Do you?"
"No, frankly. But why did you
"To keep you busy."
"I see." He didn't. He scooped
the bullets up, put them in one
pocket, and dropped the cartridges
in another. He stood up.
"There wasn't any point in let-
ting you get nervous," Myka ex-
plained. "You can be quite a deadly
boy in action, if what I've seen
and heard about you is any indica-
tion. I didn't want you killing any
of our friends," She was smiling at
him without any malice whatso-
ever; rather, with a definite degree
of fondness. Geoffrey did not even
feel resentful at this business of
being casually managed, as though
he were liable to do something
But he scrambled up to a place
beside The Barbarian in a burst
of tense movement, and looked out
toward the approaching tankettes.
What Myka had just said to him,
and the cryptic smile on the Bar-
barian's face, and a thought of
Geoffrey's own, had all fitted them-
selves together in his mind.
There was no reason, really, to
believe that barbarians would be
hostile to barbarians, and certainly
the inland raiders could not have
returned .year after year without
some means of handling the
mountain tribes. Friendship, or at
least an alliance, would be the
And out on the slope of the
nearest hill, bearded men in home-
spun clothing were rolling boulders
down on the advancing tankettes.
The slope of the hill was quite
steep, and the boulders were mas-
sive. They tumbled and bounded
with a speed that must have seemed
terrifying from below. Tearing
great chunks out of the earth, they
rumbled down on the tankettes
while the tribesmen yelled with
bloodcurdling ferocity and fired on
the tankettes with impossible
rapidity. With respectable marks-
manship, too. The nobles were
swerving their vehicles frantically
from side to side, trying to avoid
the boulders, but their ability to
do so was being destroyed by bullets
that ricocheted viciously off the
canted forepeak plating. All three
of them were blundering about
like cattle attacked by stinging in-
sects. Only the lead tankette was
still under anything like intelligent
control. It lurched away from three
boulders in succession, swinging on
its treads and continuing to churn
its way up the hillside.
Geoffrey saw the other two tank-
ettes struck almost simultaneously.
One took a boulder squarely be-
tween its tracks, and stopped in a
shower of rock fragments. The
track cleats bit futilely at the
ground. The vehicle stalled, the
boulder jammed against it. The im-
pact did not seem to have been
particularly severe; but the entire
body of the tankette had been
buckled and accordioned. Possibly
only the boulder's own bulk be-
tween the tracks had kept them
from coming together like the knees
of a gored ox. It was impossible to
tell where, in that crushed bulk,
the turret and its occupant might
The other tankette took its
boulder squarely in the flank. It
began to roll over immediately,
hurtling back down the hill, its
driver half in and half out of its
turret at the beginning of the first
roll. Tankette and boulder came to
rest together at the bottom of the
hill, the stone nosing up against
Geoffrey looked at the scene
with cold fury. "That's no fitting
way for a noble to die!"
The Barbarian, who was
sprawled out and watching calm-
ly, nodded his head. "Probably
not," he said dispassionately. "But
that other man's giving a good ac-
count of himself."
The remaining tankette was al-
most in among the tribesmen. It
had passed the point where a rolling
boulder's momentum would be
great enough to do much damage.
As Geoffrey watched, the man in
the turret yanked his lanyard,
and a solid shot boomed through
the straggled line of bearded men.
If it had been grape or canister,
it might have done a good deal of
damage. But the cannon had been
loaded with Geoffrey's tankette in
mind, and the tribesmen only
jeered. One of them dashed for-
ward, under the cannon's smoking
muzzle, and jammed a wedge-
shaped stone between the left side
track and the massive forward track
roller. The track jammed, broke,
and whipped back in whistling
fragments. The tankette slewed
around while the unharmed tribes-
man danced out of the way. The
noble in the turret could only watch
helplessly. Apparently he had no
sidearm. Geoffrey peered at him
as the tribesmen swarmed over the
tankette and dragged him out of
the turret. It was Dugald, and
Geoffrey's arm still tingled from
the slap that had knocked the
pistol irretrievably into the night-
shadowed brush at the battlefield.
"What are they going to do to
him?" he asked The Barbarian.
"Make him meet the test of
fitness, I suppose."
Geoffrey did not get the answer
to his question immediately. The
woods all around him were stir-
ring, and bearded men in home-
spun, carrying fantastic rifles, were
casually walking toward him. The
Barbarian pushed himself up to his
feet without any show of surprise.
"Howdy,"' he said. "Figured you
were right around."
One of the tribesmen — a gaunt,
incredibly tall man with a grizzled
beard — nodded. "I seen you makin'
signs while you was hangin' off
that tank, before. Got a mark?"
The Barbarian extended his right
arm and turned his wrist over. A
faint double scar, crossed at right
angles, showed in the skin.
The tribesman peered at it and
grunted. "Old one."
"I got it twenty years ago, when
I first came through here," The
"Double, too. Ain't many of
"My name's Hodd Savage."
"Oh," the tribesman said. His
entire manner changed. Without
becoming servile, it was respectful.
He extended his hand. "Sime
Weatherby." He and The Barbarian
clasped hands. "That your woman
down there?" the tribesman asked,
nodding toward Myka.
"Good enough." For the first
time, Weatherby looked directly at
Geoffrey. "What about him?"
The Barbarian shook his head.
The tribesman nodded. "I
figured, from the way he was
actin'." He seemed to make no
particular signal — perhaps none
was needed — but Geoffrey's arms
were suddenly taken from behind,
and his wrists were tied.
"We'll see if he can get him a
mark today," Weatherby said. He
looked to his left, where other men
were just pushing Dugald into the
ring they had formed aroimd the
group. "Seein' as there's two of
them, one of 'em ought to make
Geoffrey and Dugald stared ex-
pressionlessly at each other. The
Barbarian kept his eyes on Geof-
frey's face. "That's right," he said.
"Can't have two men fight to the
death without one of them coming
out alive, usually."
THE TRIBESMEN lived in
wooden cabins tucked away
among trees and hidden in narrow
little valleys. GeofTrey was sur-
prised to see windmills, and wire
fencing for the cattle pastures that
adjoined their homes. He was even
more interested in their rifles,
which, the tribesmen told him,
were repeaters. He was puzzled by
the absence of a cylinder, such as
could be found on the generally
unreliable revolvers one saw oc-
The tribesmen were treating
both him and Dugald with a com-
plete absence of the savagery he
expected. They were being perfect-
ly matter-of-fact. If his hands had
not been tied, Geoffrey might not
have been a prisoner at all. This
puzzled him as well. A prisoner,
after all, could not expect to be
treated very well. True, he and
Dugald were nobles, but this could
not possibly mean anything to
persons as uncivilized as mountain
Yet somehow, the only thing
that was done was that all of them ;
the tribesmen, The Barbarian, My-
ka, Dugald and he — made their
way to Weatherby's home. A num-
ber of the tribesmen continued on
their way from there, going to
their own homes to bring their
families to watch the test. The re-
mainder stayed behind to post
guard. Dugald was put in one room,
and Geoffrey in another. The Bar-
barian and Myka went off some-
where with Weatherby — presum-
ably to have breakfast. Geoffrey
could smell food cooking, some-
where toward the back of the
house. The smell sat intolerably on
his empty stomach.
He sat for perhaps a half hour
in the room, which was almost bare
of furniture. There was a straight-
backed chair, in which he sat, a
narrow bed, and a bureau. Even
though his hands were still tied
behind his back, he did his best
to search the room for something
to help him — though he had no
idea of what he would do next
after he managed to escape from
the room itself.
The problem did not arise, be-
cause the room had been stripped
of anything with a sharp edge on
which to cut his lashings, and of
anything else he might put to use.
These people had obviously held
prisoners here before. He sat back
down in his chair, and stared at
Eventually, someone opened the
door. Geoffrey looked over, and
saw that it was The Barbarian.
He looked at the inlander coldly,
but The Barbarian did not seem
to notice. He sat down on the edge
of the bed.
"On top of everything else," he
began without preamble, "I've just
finished a hearty breakfast. That
ought to really make you mad at
"I'm not concerned with you, or
your meals," Geoffrey pointed out.
The Barbarian's eyes twinkled.
"It doesn't bother you, my getting
your help and then not protecting
you from these intransigent tribes-
"Hardly. I'd be a fool to expect
"Would you, now? Look, Bucko
—these people live a hard way of
life. Living on a mountain is a good
way not to live comfortably. But
it's a good way of living your own
way, if you can stand the gaff.
These people can. Every one of
them. They've got their marks to
prove it. Every last one of them has
fought it out face to face with an-
other man, and proved his fitness
to take up space in this territory.
See — it's a social code. And they'll
extend it to cover any stranger who
doesn't get killed on his way here.
If you can get your mark, you're
welcome here for the rest of your
life. They keep their clan stock
fresh and vigorous that way. And it
all has the virtue of being a uni-
form, just, rigid code that covers
every man in the group. These bar-
barian cultures aren't ever happy
without a good code to their name,
"Yours seems to lack one."
The Barbarian chuckled. "Oh,
no. We've got one, all right, or
you'd never have had me to worry
you. Nothing we like better than
a good, talented enemy. You know,
these people here in the mountains
used to be our favorite enemies.
But so many of us wound up getting
our marks, it just got to be futile.
Once you're in, you know, you're
a full-fledged clan member. That
sort of divided our loyalties. The
problem just seemed to solve it-
self, though. We understand them,
they understand us, we trade back
and forth . . . hell, it's all one
Geoffrey frowned. "You mean—
they got those rifles from you?"
"Sure. We're full of ingenuity —
for barbarians, that is. Not in the
same class with you seaboard
nobles, of course, but we poke
along." The Barbarian stood up,
and his expression turned serious.
"Look, Son — you remember that
knife of mine you borrowed for a
while? I'll have to lend it to you
again, in about twenty minutes.
Your friend Dugald's going to have
one just like it, and your left arms
are going to be tied together at
the wrists. I hope you remember
what I happened to tell you about
how to use it, because under the
rules of the code, I'm not allowed
to instruct you."
And Geoffrey was left alone.
There was a hard-packed area
of dirt in front of Weatherby's
home, and now its edges were
crowded with tribesmen, many of
whom had brought their women
and children. Weatherby, together
with a spare, capable-looking wo-
man, and with The Barbarian and
(Continued on page 113)
Ml, .il^'ll!' t'l,.'i,"l',
BY ARTHUR C. CLARKE
No phenomenon? Then was
it a massive life that sped —
IF YOU HAVE only lived on
Earth, you have never seen the
Sun. Of course, we could not look
at it directly, but only through
dense filters that cut its rays down
to endurable brilliance. It hung
there forever above the low, jagged
hills to the west of the Observatory,
neither rising nor setting, yet mov-
Illustrated by Virgil Finlay ing round a small circle in the sky
during the 88-day year of our little
world. For it is not quite true to
say that Mercury keeps the same
face always turned towards the
Sun; it wobbles slightly on its axis,
and there is a narrow twilight belt
which knows such terrestrial com-
monplaces as dawn and sunset.
We were on the edge of Mercu-
ry's twilight zone, so that we could
take advantage of the cool shadows
yet could keep the Sun under con-
tinuous surveillance as it hovered
there above the hills. It was a full-
time job for fifty astronomers and
other assorted scientists; when
we've kept it up for a hundred
years or so, we may know some-
thing about the small star which
brought life to Earth.
There wasn't a single band of
solar radiation that someone at the
Observatory had not made a life's
study and was watching like a
hawk. From the far X-rays to the
longest of radio waves, we had
set our traps and snares; as soon
as the Sun thought of something
new, we were ready for it. So we
imagined . . .
The Sun's flaming heart beats
in a slow, 11 -year rhythm, and we
were near the peak of the cycle.
Two of the greatest spots ever re-
corded—each of them large enough
to swallow a hundred Earths — had
drifted across the disc like great
black funnels piercing deeply into
the turbulent outer layers of the
Sun. They were black, of course,
only by contrast with the brilliance
all around them; even their dark,
cool cores were hotter and brighter
than an electric arc. We had just
watched the second of them dis-
appear round the edge of the disc,
wondering if it would survive to
reappear two weeks later, when
something blew up on the Equator.
It was not too spectacular at
first, partly because it was almost
exactly beneath us — at the precise
center of the Sun's disc — and so
was merged into all the activity
around it. If it had been near the
edge of the Sun, and thus pro-
jected against the background of
space, it would have been truly
Imagine the simultaneous ex-
plosion of a million H-bombs. You
can't? Nor can anyone else— but
that was the sort of thing we were
watching climb up toward us at
hundreds of miles a second, straight
out of the Sun's spinning equator.
At first it formed a narrow jet, but
it was quickly frayed round the
edges by the magnetic and gravita^
tional forces that were fighting
against it. The central core kept
right on, and it was soon obvious
that it had escaped from the Sun
completely and was headed out in-
to space— with us as its first target.
Though this had happened half
a dozen times before, it was always
exciting. It meant that we could
capture some of the very substance
of the Sun as it went hurtling past
in a great cloud of electrified gas.
There was no danger; by the time
it reached us it would be far too
tenuous to do any damage, and
indeed it would take sensitive in-
struments to detect it at all.
One of those instruments was
the Observatory's radar, which was
in continual use to map the invisi-
ble ionized layers that surround the
ARTHUR C. CLARKE
Sun for millions of miles. This was
my department; as soon as there
was any hope of picking up the on-
coming cloud against the solar
background, I aimed my giant
radio mirror toward it.
It came in sharp and clear on the
long-range screen — a vast, lumi-
nous island still moving outward
from the Sun at hundreds of miles
a second. At this distance it was im-
possible to see its finer details, for
my radar waves were taking min-
utes to make the round trip and to
bring me back the information
they were presenting on the screen.
Even at its speed of not far short
of a million miles an hour, it would
be almost two days before the
escaping prominence reached the
orbit of Mercury and swept past
us towards the outer planets. But
neither Venus nor Earth would re-
cord its passing, for they were no-
where near its line of flight.
The hours drifted by; the Sun
had settled down after the immense
convulsion, that had shot so many
millions of tons of its substance in-
to space, never to return. The after-
math df that eruption was now a
slowly twisting and turning cloud
a hundred times the size of Earth,
and soon it would be close enough
for the short-range radar to reveal
its finer structure.
Despite all the years I have
been in the business, it still gives
me a thrill to watch that line of
light paint its picture on the screen
as it spins in synchronism with
the narrow beam of radio waves
from the transmitter. I sometimes
think of myself as a blind man, ex-
OUT FROM THE SUN
ploring the space around him with
a stick that may be a hundred mil-
lion miles in length. For man is
truly blind to the things I study;
these great clouds of ionized gas
moving far out from the Sun are
completely invisible to the eye and
even to the most sensitive of photo-
graphic plates. They are ghosts
that briefly haunt the Solar System
during the few hours of their ex-
istence; if they did not reflect our
radar waves, or disturb our mag-
netometers, we should never know
that they were there.
The picture on the screen looked
not unlike a photograph of a spiral
nebula, for as the cloud slowly
rotated it trailed ragged arms of
gas for ten thousand miles around
it. Or it might have been a ter-
restrial hurricane that I was watch-
ing from above, as it spun through
the atmosphere of Earth. Its in-
ternal structure was extremely com-
plicated, and was changing minute
by minute beneath the action of
forces which we have never fully
understood. Rivers of fire were
flowing in curious paths under
what could only be the influence
of electric fields ; but why were they
appearing from nowhere and dis-
appearing again as if matter was
being created and destroyed? And
what were those gleaming nodules,
larger than the Moon, that were
being swept along like boulders be-
fdre a flood?
Now it was less than a million
miles away; it would be upon us
in little more than an hour. The
automatic cameras were recording
every complete sweep of the radar
scan, storing up evidence which
was to keep us arguing for years.
The magnetic disturbance riding
ahead of the cloud had already
reached us ; indeed, there was hard-
ly an instrument in the Observator)'
that was not reacting in some way
to the onrushing apparition.
I switched to the short-range
scanner, and the image of the cloud
expanded so enormously tliat only
its central portion was on the
screen. At the same time I began to
change frequency, tuning across the
spectrum to differentiate between
the various levels. The shorter the
wavelength, the further you can
penetrate into a layer of ionized
gas; by this technique I hoped to
get a kind of X-ray picture of the
It seemed to change before my
eyes as I sliced down through the
tenuous outer envelope with its
trailing arms, and approached the
denser core. "Denser", of course,
was a purely relative word; by ter-
restrial standards even its most
closely-packed regions were still a
fairly good vacuum. I had almost
reached the limit of my frequency
band, and could shorten the wave
length no further, when I noticed
the curious, tight little echo not
far from the centre of the screen.
IT WAS OVAL, and much more
sharp-edged than the knots of gas
we had watched adrift in the
cloud's fiery streams. Even in that
first glimpse, I knew that here was
something very strange, and out-
side all previous records of solar
phenomena. I watched it for a
dozen scans of the radar beam, then
called my assistant away from the
radio-spectrograph with which he
was analysing the velocities of the
swirling gas as it spun toward us.
"Look, Don," I asked him, "have
you ever seen anything like that?"
"No," he answered after a care-
ful examination. "What holds it
together? It hasn't changed its
shape for the last two minutes."
"That's what puzzles me. What-
ever it is, it should have started
to break up by now with all that
disturbance going on around it. But
it seems as stable as ever."
"How big would you say it is?"
I switched on the calibration
grid and took a quick reading.
"It's about five hundred miles
long, and half that in width."
"Is this the largest picture you
"I'm afraid so. We'll have to
wait until it's closer before we can
see what makes it tick."
Don gave a nervous little laugh.
"This is crazy," he said, "but do
you know something? I feel as if
I'm looking at an amoeba imder
I did not answer; for with what
I can only describe as a sensation
of intellectual vertigo, exactly the
same thought had entered my mind.
We forgot about the rest of the
cloud, but luckily the automatic
cameras kept up their work and
no important observations were
lost. From now on we had eyes
only for that sharp-edged lens of
gas that was growing minute by
minute as it raced toward us.
When it was no further away than
is the Moon from Earth, it began
to show the first signs of its internal
ARTHUR C. CLARKE
structure, by revealing a curious
mottled appearance that was never
quite the same on two successive
sweeps of the scanner.
By now, half the Observatory
staff had joined us in the radar
room, yet there was complete
silence as the oncoming enigma
grew swiftly across the screen. It
was coming straight toward us; in
a few minutes it would hit Mercu-
ry somewhere in the center of
the day-light side, and that would
be the end of it— whatever it was.
From the moment we obtained our
first really detailed view until the
screen became blank again could
not have been more than five
minutes; for every one of us, that
five minutes will haunt us all our
We were looking at what seemed
to be a translucent oval, its interior
laced with a network of almost
invisible lines. Where the lines
crossed there appeared to be tiny,
pulsing ■ nodes of light; we could
never be quite sure of their ex-
istence because the radar took al-
most a minute to paint the com-
plete picture on the screen — and
between each sweep the object
moved several thousand miles.
There was no doubt, however, that
the network itself existed; the
cameras settled any arguments
So strong was the impression
that we were looking at a solid
object, I took a few moments off
from the radar screen and hastily
focused one of the optical telescopes
on to the sky. Of course, there was
nothing to be seen — no sign of
anything silhouetted against the
OUT FROM THE SUN
Sun's pock-marked disc. This was
a case where vision failed complete-
ly and only the electrical senses of
the radar were of any use. The
thing that was coming toward us
out of the Sun was as transparent
as air — and far more tenuous.
As those last moments ebbed
away, I am quite sure that every
one of us had reached the same
conclusion — and was waiting for
someone else to say it first. What
we were seeing was impossible, yet
the evidence was there before our
eyes. We were looking at life, where
no life could exist . . .
The eruption, had hurled the
thing out of its normal environ-
ment, deep down in the flaming at-
mosphere of the Sun. It was a
miracle that it had survived its
journey through space; already it
must be dying, as the forces which
controlled its huge, invisible body
lost their hold over the electrified
gas which was its only substance.
Today, now that I have run
through those films a hundred
times, the idea no longer seems so
strange to me. For what is life but
organized energy? Does it matter
zvhat form that energy takes —
whether it is chemical, as we know
it on Earth, or purely electrical, as
it seemed to be here? Only the pat-
tern is important; the substance it-
self is of no significance. But at the
time I did not think of this; I was
conscious only of a vast and over-
whelming wonder as I watched
this creature of the Sun live out
the final moments of its existence.
Was it intelligent? Could it im-
(Conlinued on pa^e 112)
BY ED M. CLINTON, JR.
Illustrated by Ed Emsh
AT MOMENTS like this, Gen-
eral David Walker always
thought fleetingly of the good old
days when he had hated the army.
As usual, he smashed the thought
out of his mind with a distinct sense
He looked up again at the
seamed face of the Chief of Staff,
General Marcus Meriwether. "This
could be serious," he said slowly,
with a sick sense of the statement's
inadequacy. An old tic suddenly
returned, tugging at the left corner
of his mouth.
The deadly, unsmiling expression
on Meriwether's face did not
change as he slid more tightly into
his chair. "You know as well as I
that it means the Interplanetary
Confederation is ready to go to war
Walker stared at the typed state-
ment on his desk. It was a decoded
intelligence message from United
Terra's prime agent in the Inter-
planetary Confederation," and it
was very brief: the Confederation
had developed a long-range neural
weapon effectively cancelling out
every armament development
achieved by United Terra in fifteen
years of a cold war that of late had
become bitter cold. The all-but-
autonomous colonies of Mars and
Venus, united now for twenty years
in an economic league, had been
itching for independence for a
quarter of a century. The itch had
developed into a mighty burning.
"You are fully aware," Meri-
wether continued, his face still set,
"of our feeling that the Confedera-
tion has been eager to take on
Terra. They've clearly been waiting
It was a touchable
touching an untouchable.
Both scientist and general
were doing their own
version of right . . .
for some positive advantage to off-
set our pure strength-in-numbers."
Walker forced his eyes upward
and stared at his superior. "Your
tone says that such a war might
"Unwelcome at this time. Un-
welcome at this time." Meriwether
shifted around in his chair, and
scratched at its leather arms with
the manicured tips of his gnarled
fingers. "Walker, I don't have to
tell you that this weapon, if it is
what our agent infers — and there
is no reason to believe otherwise —
that this weapon makes it impossi-
ble for us to go to war with the
Confederation — unless, as Chief of
Weapons Development, you can
tell me that we have something in
our arsenal to combat it."
Walker rubbed at the tic. "Noth-
ing," he said quietly.
Meriwether leaned forward, his
hands crooked backward against
the chair arms like catapult springs.
"That answer is unacceptable.
There are other questions you must
answer, Walker, questions in some
ways even more important than
that basic one. Why haven't we de-
veloped this weapon ourselves?
Why haven't we been aware of its
potential existence? Where are the
defensive devices which would nat-
urally develop from such cog-
nizance? These things are all your
department, Walker." His voice
pitched upward an hysterical frac-
tion. "It just doesn't make sense,
you know. We've a hundred times
the personnel, ten times the facili-
ties, unlimited funds — but they've
beaten us to it." He stood up and
pushed his chair back, eyes squint-
ing out of a reddening face that
seemed on the point of bursting.
Once again Walker thought
about how he had hated the army
when he was a bright young physics
student. That was a long time ago
— So much had happened. The
doors had closed around him, one
at a time, doors closing on the scien-
tific mind. And so now, instead of a
research scientist in white smock
with textbook, he was a military
administrator in smart greys with
glittering stars of military rank.
"I'll say this, Walker," Meri-
wether shouted, his voice breaking
again. "We'd better catch up quick.
Mighty quick. Let's put it this way.
It might mean your rank and your
job. Walker. But you won't give a
damn. Because we'll have lost the
war. We'll have lost the colonies.
And you know what that would
mean. Walker?" He bent forward
across the desk, his face exploding
into Walker's eyes. "Only a fool be-
lieves that United Terra can sur-
vive in an economy without tri-
"Walker, you've all the authority
within my power to grant. You'll
have no trouble getting money. But
— get the answer. Quick."
Walker blinked after him as he
strode to the door. "I'll try to hold
off a federal investigation as long
as I can," Meriwether added, turn-
ing from the half-opened door.
"But I can't guarantee a thing."
Walker sat alone in a cubicle of
light in the darkerted city and
gulped down his twentieth cup of
coffee. It had grown cold in the
ED M. CLINTON, JR.
cup and with a grimace he pushed
There was no doubt about it. He
thumbed through the sheaf of scrib-
bled notes he had transcribed from
stacks of documents and racks of
spools from Security files. Clearly,
he had the answer to Meriwether's
questions. But, having it, he did not
quite know what to do with it.
There was, however, no doubt at
all: United Terra had been on the
track of the neural weapon — ten
years earlier. Gould have had it —
and had lost the chance.
He rubbed his thumbs hard
against his tired eyes and tried to
remember back that ten years: at
that time he had been Chief of
Weapons Development for perhaps
three years. His own name, though,
had appeared in none of the files
he had examined, so apparently he
had not been directly involved in
the security hearings. But he should
Dr. Otto Millet. Otto Millet. He
let the name roll around his brain,
until shortly an image began to
form — an image of a smiling man,
greying at the temples, wearing a
flamboyant sports shirt and affect-
ing a very close haircut. A man per-
haps forty. In the image, he was a
He remembered now. Dr. Otto
Millet: into government service on
the inertia of a fantastic reputation
as a research physicist specializing
in magnetic field studies. A man he
had instantly disliked.
He bent forward and reread
what he had scrawled in his last
notes, a verbatim extract from the
report of the security committee.
"It is clear that Dr. Millet's
conversations and letters with Pro-
fessor Greyman, together with his
unrepentant attitude, render him a
security risk. His various security
clearances are therefore revoked,
and he is hereafter prohibited ac-
cess to all classified files and to any
government research and develop-
Since virtually all laboratories
were government supported, that
was to all intents and purposes the
end of Millet's career as an experi-
Where had Millet gone? What
had he done since? Walker scraped
a cigarette out of the half-empty
pack in his pocket. More impor-
tant: what was he doing now?
He inhaled deeply and sent
clouds of smoke skewing across the
room. Had the man really been a
traitor? Walker tried to place him-
self in the time of Millet's hearing.
He'd been not too many years out
of school then, with the bitterness
of his frustrated ambition to be a
research physicist still rankling him ;
perhaps this had colored his view
of Millet. He stared at his desk,
almost shocked that this thought
should have occurred to him. It
shook him, for it told him some-
thing about himself which he did
not particularly care to know.
Nowhere had he been able to find
any evidence as to what had hap-
pened to Millet since. Banished, the
government seemed to forget him.
But one thing was clear to Walker,
and he pondered it deeply as he
sucked on the last quarter-inch of
his cigarette and poured himself
another cup of cold black coffee.
One big thing: Millet had been
directing development along lines
that would have led to the neural
weapon; he had even signed a re-
port, early in his project effort,
which had referred to the possibil-
ity of "a neural device."
Had he gone over to the Con-
federation? It would account for
their possession of the weapon now.
But surely — surely, this fact would
have been observed and reported
Ijy Terran intelligence agents.
Walker, infinitely tired, forgot his
coffee and began to tidy up the
desk, filing everything he wanted to
keep in an electronically locked
cabinet, shoving everything else into
the destruction of the vibrator. He
pondered for a moment the pow-
dered secrets that were heaped like
black dust in the bottom of the can-
ister: a symbol of safety to a ter-
Step one: find Millet. Find Mil-
IT TOOK THE Secret Service
exactly twenty-nine hours to lo-
cate Dr. Otto Millet. Thirty min-
utes later, Walker was climbing out
of a government helicopter and
staring at Millet's small house
through squinted eyes which he
shielded with both hands against
the blazing desert sun. The house
was fronted by a neat lawn and a
white fence entwined with red
roses; there appeared to be a rather
large garden in the rear. The style
of the house bothered him a little:
it had passed out of popularity
thirty years before. Its lack of a
conventional roofport had forced
them to land the 'copter on the
He straightened and pushed
through the creaking gate. Flag-
stone steps curved toward the
porch, and he minced along them,
uncertain, now that he had arrived,
of what he would say to Millet. The
damned house, he thought — so dif-
ferent from what he had expected;
it had thrown his whole thinking
out of order.
He hated himself for feeling un-
There was neither vodor nor con-
tact system of any kind at the door,
and he brushed his hand against his
forehead in a gesture of frustration.
He stared at his palm — it had come
away wet with sweat, and he won-
dered if it were all because of the
Tentatively, he banged on the
door with his fist. There was no
Damn Millet, he thought, wiping
his forehead again. Why couldn't
the man have a videophone like
any normal person so you could
find out if he were home without
taking a trip halfway across the
He turned, stamping angrily as
he did so, and was startled to see a
man, wearing work clothes and
holding a pair of heavy soiled gloves
in his left hand, standing on the
ground by the end of the porch. He
was nearly bald, intensely bronzed,
and he was smiling.
"Wondered when you'd see me."
He nodded toward the gate. "I was
standing right there when you came
up. You just breezed right past."
His smile broadened. "You were so
ED M. CLINTON, JR.
interested in being surprised that
you couldn't see what you came
"It must have been that damned
glare," muttered Walker, shaking
his head. Then, impolitely, "Are
"Otto Millet," the other replied,
inclining his head slightly. "You're
from the government. I can tell
because of the uniform, you see."
Walker flushed. "The government
hasn't thought about me in a aum-
ber of years," the scientist added.
He came up onto the porch and
peered at the symbol on the left
lapel of Walker's jacket. "Ah! Al-
ma mater. Weapons Development."
He squinted at Walker. "David
Walker, I presume?" He chuckled
loudly but Walker failed to see the
humor. "I remember you, you see;
what a shame you can't return the
"It's hot out here," complained
Walker, in growing discomfort.
Millet opened the door. "Won't
you come in? It's better inside."
There it was again, thought
Walker; the insolence, the imper-
turbable smile. He grunted and
went in; it was, mercifully, con-
He looked around. It was a very
cluttered living room, not messy but
tossed about with the artifacts that
the man obviously liked to have
around him. There was an ancient
painting by Bonestell hanging on
one wall, a startlingly accurate
twentieth-century concept of the
appeai'ance of Mars; several long
pipe racks, filled to overflowing, in
various spots around the room; a
typewriter on a table in a corner,
and piles of paper; books lining the
walls, and stacked on the floor in
heaps and on the table beside the
typewriter; a map of the earth on
the wall above the typewriter, a
three-dimensional Waterson projec-
tion. The furniture was clean but —
not old; lived with.
Walker went over to the wall
map and peered closely.
"One of Waterson's first," re-
marked Millet, closing the door.
"Sit down. Walker, and tell me all
about Weapons Development. How
is the mass murder department do-
ing these days?"
Walker felt his ears redden and
he was arrested in the very act of
sitting down. "Really," he said, "it's
not something we like to think
about, you know."
"Suppose not." Millet fiddled
with several pipes in a rack beside
his chair, selected one, and began
filling it with rough-cut tobacco
from a battered canister. "To
business, then. Why the visit?"
Walker cleared his throat and
tried to remember the little pref-
atory weasel words he had painfully
assembled during the flight from
Omaha. "First of all. Dr. Millet, I
find myself a little embarrassed.
After all, your parting from gov-
ernment service was not of the hap-
piest nature for you — "
"Don't be foolish. Happiest day
of my life, Walker."
Walker had a sudden sense of
being impaled, and the rest of the
little speech was dissipated in the
wave of shock which swept over
him. He forced his mouth shut, and
gasped, "You're not serious!"
Millet shook out his second
match and puffed until the pipe
bowl glowed warmly, edge to edge.
"Of course I'm serious." He jabbed
his pipe at Walker. "You like your
"It's a job that has to be done."
Millet smiled and shrugged.
"You haven't really answered my
Walker, sensing that he had al-
ready lost control of the conversa-
tion, waved his hands in dismissal.
"Well, that is not really important.
The fact remains, you did leave
Weapons Development at the . . .
ah . . . request of the government."
"Talk on, talk on — you'll get to
the point eventually. When you're
through, I'd like to show you
around the place. I'm very proud
of my gardens. You're sort of
responsible for them, you know."
Walker set his jaw and bored
ahead. "However, at the time you
left government service, you were
pursuing certain lines of re-
search — "
Millet leaned back and began
laughing, his eyes squinted shut.
"Walker, don't tell me they want
It seemed his chance to dominate
the discussion again. "I don't think
you'd be allowed back."
"Good," said Millet, looking up,
his laughter fading into a smile.
"I was a bit concerned for a mo-
There was silence in the room.
Walker began to wish that he were
somewhere else: Millet simply baf-
fled him. He obviously did not care
about his disgrace. Walker felt a
resurgence of the old resentment.
Millet's face suddenly became
very kindly. "Perhaps, as a fellow
scientist" — Walker almost winced,
and knew, furiously, that his
response had shown — "you would
be interested in knowing what I've
been doing since my unhappy mar-
riage with bureaucracy ended."
It was a welcome gambit, and
Walker accepted it eagerly. "I cer-
tainly would. One of the reasons I
came here, as a matter of fact."
Millet waved his pipe. "Good.
Afterwards, you can stop beating
around the bush, eh?"
"Yes, of course," mumbled
"You know," said Millet as he
got up and went to a bookcase, "a
man's got to earn a living. Do much
"Not these days. Used to." He
scratched a cigarette on the sole of
his shoe and inhaled hugely. "Not
enough time these days for read-
Millet reached into the bookcase
and came out with a stack of maga-
zines. "Well, that's how I make my
living." He handed the stack to
Walker. "Writing. Use a pen name
of course. He chuckled. "Write
everything — always happiest doing
science fiction, though."
Walker flipped through the
magazines; he looked up. "Ob-
viously, you're doing rather well at
"Have been for the last seven or
eight years. Lot of fun."
"And this has been your life
since you left us?" Walker set the
stack of magazines aside. "Seems a
waste of genius, somehow."
"As a matter of fact, this is not
my life's work. As I said, a man's
ED M. CLINTON, JR.
got to earn a living. This is just a
lucrative hobby that pays the way.
You see, I've been involved in an
expensive research program."
"Ah." Walker sat forward and
smashed out his cigarette. "This
may be important."
"Oh, it is, it is. But not, I am
afraid, in the way you mean."
"You can never tell. What have
you been doing?"
"Completing a unified theory of
life. Why a crystal grows but isn't
alive, why an organism that dies
isn't like a crystal. What is the
process we call life? What is its re-
lationship to the space-time con-
tinuum — "
He said it so casually that Walker
was caught off his guard complete-
ly. "Are you serious, Millet?" he
"Certainly. I expect to publish in
about two years."
"Is this an independent effort?"
"Not entirely. Others have con-
tributed. Some pioneers long dead,
some among the living." His eyes
twinkled. "You see, important
things beside the development of
weapons of destruction do continue
in the scientific world. Did you
think that was the end of every-
thing for me, ten years ago?" He
shook his head in mock gravity. "It
was just the beginning. I wanted
out, you see."
"You wanted out?" Walker
leaned foi-ward, unwilling to be-
lieve what he had heard. "Are you
trying to tell me that you arranged
Millet shrugged. "Why, of course.
Nobody ever has bothered to ask
me about that up to now, but I
certainly did arrange it. It wasn't
hard, you know. All I had to do
was set up some sort of relationship
with a so-called security risk, and I
was on my way out."
"Why . . . that's damned near
"Don't be silly. I had other im-
portant things to do. In order to
do them — to continue work on the
unified life theory — it was necessary
for me to contact scientists with
whom professional relationships
were made illegal by security regu-
lations. The choice was simple; be-
sides, I didn't enjoy the idea of
spending my life developing ways
of destroying the very thing I
wanted most to understand."
"This is fantastic, Millet, utterly
"But true nonetheless. Walker,
you look like you could use a
"By all means." He stared empti-
ly into the air, thinking about the
good old days.
"Walker, a toast," said Millet,
holding a tall glass out to him. "To
Walker blinked. "By all means,"
he repeated hoarsely, and there was
a blurriness to his vision. "To sci-
They drank, and Walker said:
"I feel a bit freer to say what I
have come for."
"Shoot," nodded Millet, sipping
"For security reasons, I'll talk in
generalities. But the basic fact is,
tJnited Terra is faced with a serious
situation. It is most desirable that
the research you were conducting
when you left us, be continued."
"There are a lot of other capable
physicists, both eager to be a part
of such activity and blessed with
"You know very well. Millet,
that this was an unique, almost in-
dependent line of development that
comes to a stop in your brain. Be-
sides," and suddenly he felt silly,
"the lines of communication for re-
search which might enable us to
pick up where you left off, in time
- — too much time — are somewhat
entangled in security." He glared.
"Don't laugh. Millet; it's a fact of
life which must be faced."
Millet finished his drink and set
the glass on an end table. "What
you're doing is asking me to come
back if you can arrange it."
Walker spread his hands. "Dr.
Millet, you have put it in a nut-
Millet shook his head, and for
the first time since their conversa-
tion had started he frowned.
"Walker, you know how I feel
about developing weapons. I'm just
plain opposed to it."
"The soldier is opposed to losing
his life, but many have to do just
that in the interests of civilization."
"That serious, eh?"
Walker crumpled under the
weight of his fear. "That serious,"
he said wearily.
Millet thoughtfully relit his pipe.
"Of course, I'm not at all sure that
United Terra is very right in this
"In times like these, that kind of
thought is out of bounds," snapped
Walker. "Whether you like it or
not, you are a part of this culture.
You might disapprove of many
things in it, but you don't want to
see it fall."
Millet puffed gently. "No, I sup-
pose not." Again the frown flick-
ered across his face. "I've been
very happy. I don't want my work
interrupted. It's too important.
"Undoubtedly this would more
than interrupt your work. It would
Millet's eyes drifted affectionate-
ly about the room. "Most unpleas-
ant." A smile curled his lips.
"Frankly, though, I don't think you
can clear me again."
"Indeed." A weary resignation
seemed to settle over Millet, and
Walker suddenly felt very miser-
able. "I suppose I'll have to ac-
cept," Millet said, pulling his pipe
out of his mouth and staring un-
happily at its trail of smoke.
Walker put his hands flat on his
desk and sighed deeply. Some of
the pressure, at least, was off; he
had managed to cancel part of the
Confederation's advantage. Terran
industrial strength and technologi-
cal supremacy, coupled with Mil-
let's genius, might yet equate, or at
least circumvent, the frightful
weapon the Confederation held.
However, he still had to get Mil-
let back into the goverrmient.
Though, on the basis of the infor-
mation he had gained regarding
the scientist's motivations, and con-
sidering the critical nature of the
situation, it shouldn't be too diffi-
He clicked on his video and
dialed a secret line into Security
ED M. CLINTON, JR.
Data. Gyrating colors danced
across the screen before it went
black. He scowled, depressed the
cancel button, and dialed again;
this time, the black was finally re-
placed by a recorded image, which
said, sweetly out of pouting red
"This line is not cleared for the
Security Information you seek. The
problem you are handling should
be routed through an individual
permitted access to this informa-
tion." The image faded into black-
ness, the sound track into static.
Walker stared, stupefied. No line,
no contact, no source of informa-
tion had been denied to him in over
His door swung open; he came
to his feet abruptly, furious that
someone should enter unan-
He felt sickness strike him like a
fist in the stomach: Meriwether,
flanked by two security guards,
pushed through the door. His voice
slashed across the office Hke a
"Walker, I'm shocked. Shocked.
And at a time like this. . ."
Walker pounded his desk. "What
the hell is going on? I can't get
Security Data, you come marching
in here with security men . . . what
Meriwether gestured to the
guards, and they came forward and
each took one of Walker's arms.
"You're out of a job. Walker,"
snarled General Marcus Meri-
"In the name of God, why?"
"You know very well. Take him
to security detention. Sergeant."
And suddenly he knew. Meri-
wether stared indignantly when he
started laughing. It was a hell of a
thing to laugh at, but it was also
the most hilarious tragedy he ever
hoped to encounter.
Millet. Security risk. Untouch-
, Millet would finish his great uni-
fied theory, and go down in history
as neither Walker nor Meriwether
nor the genius who invented the
Confederation's neural weapon
would. Millet was as safe as he
could possibly want to be.
And so was the Interplanetary
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The dilemma of "The Man in the White Suit" was but a minor
irritation compared to Charles and his "all-weather" suit!
THE STANDARDIZED MAN
BY STEPHEN BARTHOLOMEW
THE TURBOCAR swiped an
embankment at ninety miles
an hour; the result was, of course,
inevitable. It was a magnificent
crash, and the driver was thrown
clear at the end of it for a distance
of 50 feet.
Charles looked at the body and
got his bright idea.
The trouble had started a couple
of weeks before, when Edwin,
Charles' laboratory co-ordinator,
had called him into his office just
before Charles was due to leave
for home. It was a distinct breach
of etiquette to cause a worker to
arrive home at any time besides his
accustomed hour, so Charles knew
whatever Edwin wanted must be
important. He sat down opposite
the Co-ordinator and assumed a
politely questioning look.
"Charles, you know I wouldn't
call you here at this hour if it wasn't
important," Edwin said, pursing
"Of course not, sir," Charles re-
"The fact of the matter is, we
are in dire straits." Edwin stared
at the other ominously. "As you
well know, the Textile Industry,
like every other business firm in
the world, has functioned entirely
without economic troubles of any
sort for the past fifty years."
"Well, of course, sir . . ."
"And you are also well aware
of what would be the results of any
financial deviation in any of these
firms, particularly in a major in-
dustry such as our own."
"Certainly, sir. Ours is a deli-
cately balanced economic system.
Any slight change in the economic
status of one firm would . . ."
"Exactly!" Edwin leaned across
the desk and glared at him. "I have
just come from a Board of Direc-
tors meeting. And it was made
known to us that during the past
three weeks our margin of profit
has fallen off by three tenths of a
Charles' face turned pasty white.
He swallowed and took a deep
"Will that information be made
"Naturally not! But we aren't
sure just how long we can keep it
a secret! The fact of the matter
is, the IBM says that our profit
margin will continue to spiral
downward at a gradually increas-
ing rate unless some drastic change
occurs in our production set-up!"
Edwin leaned back and clasped
his hands, composing himself. "The
precise reasons for the existence of
the situation are quite obscure.
However, the IBM has informed us
that the problem can be remedied
if we make a particular change
in our production system, and it
has informed us as to the nature of
He stood up and placed a finger
on a capacitance switch. A panel
in the Wall slid back to reveal six
sales charts. There were two each
marked Winter, Summer and
Spring-Fall. Three were designated
marlons, and three marilyns. Each
of them showed a red line rising
steeply on the left, levelling out to
a perfectly straight bar all the way
across, then dipping sharply again.
"Look here," Edwin said. "These
are the sales charts for our six
suits. As you know, we make three
different types for marlons, and
three for marilyns. Hot-weather,
cold-weather, and medium-
weather. Each suit is designed to
last a carefully calculated length
of time, and each consumer need
only buy three suits a year. They
are exactly alike except for slight
size differences, and because of
elastic fabrics these differences are
held to a minimum. With this sys-
tem the Textile Industry attained
the ultimate in Standardization,
the ultimate in efficiency."
Charles rubbed his chin thought-
fully. "Has the IBM suggested
any alternative to our system, any
Edwin sat down again, folded his
arms on the desk, and scowled.
"That's where you come in! The
IBM informs us that there is only
one possible way to stabilize our
economy, to raise our profit margin
to its former level — and that is by
Charles raised his eyebrows.
"You mean a sexless wardrobe, sir?
That's been tried . . ."
"No, that's not what I mean!"
Edwin snapped. "What I mean is
an all-weather suit!"
Charles swallowed audibly at
that and said nothing.
"You can see the advantages, of
course," Edwin explained. "We'd
need only to manufacture two types
of suit, marlon and marilyn. Since
we'd never have to adjust our fac-
tories, we could drop a lot of un-
necessary technicians, and with the
further standardization, manufac-
turing would be faster and cheap-
er — a lot cheaper. The consumer
would only purchase one suit a
year, but we could make up for
that by raising the prices some-
Charles finally got a word in.
"But, sir! An all-weather suit?
How can we design a suit that will
be equally comfortable in the mid-
dle of a Florida heat-wave or a
New England snowstorm?"
"How? How?" Edwin's voice
raised and his finger pointed.
"You're the research chemist,
Charles! You're supposed to tell
"Sir? I . . ."
"Listen!" Edwin poked the other
in the chest. "I assume you know
what will happen to Society if the
Textile Industry becomes econom-
"Well, yes sir, but ..."
"Then I assume you realize that
the Board of Directors will stop at
nothing to preserve the status quo!
And since you happen to be our
chief industrial chemist, the entire
problem lands in your lap ! Now, we
want to know how to make an all-
weather suit, and we want to know
fast. Therefore, Charles, you're go-
ing to tell us how to do it! Under-
Charles nodded unhappily. "Yes
sir, I understand."
CHARLES went to work the
next day after informing his
wife that she could expect him to
begin keeping rather irregular
hours at the laboratory. The idea of
any kind of irregularity was enough
to worry any wife, and Ingrid was
the naturally suspicious type.
She was always nagging and had,
upon occasion, even gone so far as
to insinuate that Charles had in-
So he knew that she would, em-
barrassingly, call Edwin to check
up on him, but he didn't really
The real problem was the all-
Charles put his small corps of
assistants on the project, investigat-
ing several lines of thought at once.
Every day, someone would drop
around for a while to check on his
progress, and he had no delusions
about what would happen if he
failed. The entire economic stabil-
ity of his society depended on his
coming up with an all-weather suit,
and he began to have trouble sleep-
Eventually, he found what looked
like a workable solution.
He called Edwin to tell him
about it, and Edwin came down to
the lab to see for himself.
"Is this it?" he asked, picking up
what looked like a burlap handker-
Charles cleared his throat. "Well,
that's the first sample, sir. Of
course, it's possible to obtain a
finer weave once we find out a few
things about it, and when it's
bleached . . ."
Edwin nodded impatiently. "Yes,
yes. Well, what's so special about
"Well, it's made of a radically
new type of fiber, sir ..."
"How's it new?"
"I can show you more technical
data on it, sir, but basically the
difference between this and con-
^'entional types of fiber is that this
"How do you mean, thermo-
"Well, sir, basically, the diameter
of the fiber is inversely proportion-
al with the temperature. When the
temperature rises, the fiber con-
tracts, and when the temperature
drops, it expands. So in cold weath-
er, you have a fine, tight weave
with good insulation, and in warm
weather you have a loose weave
with ventilation . . ."
Edwin nodded and dropped the
fabric on a lab bench. "Sounds
"Well sir, we have to make a
few more tests on it, and it'll have
to be field tested before we can de-
cide if it's safe to use in gar-
ments . . ."
Edwin tapped him on the shoul-
der. "Test it, Charlie."
Edwin frowned. "We don't have
as much time as you think. We
need that suit of yours fast. We
can't afford to waste any more
time puttering around the labor-
atory. You have the fellows down-
stairs make up some of this stuff
into a Standard suit, and I want
you to put it on yourself. What I
mean is, today!"
Charles' jaw dropped. "Today!
But . . ."
THE STANDARDIZED MAN
"No buts! Wear it a couple of
days, and if you say it checks out,
we go into production immedi-
So Charles went home that
night in a new suit and a worried
THINGS WERE smooth for
about two days. Charles con-
tinued to wear the suit and Edwin
insisted on his making the prelim-
inary preparations for the mass-
production of thermostatic fabric.
Charles was kept busy working out
Then there were two factors
that brought about a drastic change
in his life.
One was that he was worried.
Charles wasn't exactly sure what
he was worried about, but at the
back of his mind there was some-
thing in the complicated molecular
structure of the new fiber that
The other factor was that Ingrid
was still nagging him. Perhaps if
Charles had been able to tell her
what he was working on she would
have understood why he was wor-
ried. But he didn't tell her, and she
One day after Charles had come
home and eaten,, she started an
argument with him about some-
thing or other, and in the most
heated part of the battle she had
hurled at him the supreme insult.
"Charles," she said, "I think you
Coupled with the strain that
Charles was under, that had been
enough to make him stare at In-
grid for a moment, wheel and stalk
out of the apartment.
After all, to say that one's face
was even subtly different — even if
it really was — ^was an unforgivable
Charles went out for a long, sol-
itary evening walk and ended up at
one of those places that features
six varieties of beer, a continuous
floor show and a loud band. Charles
was not quite aware of entering,
but once inside, watching the
bimip-and-grinders who wore noth-
ing but their name tags, he found it
difficult to leave.
The room was just ventilated
enough to prevent suffocation, but
it was purposely kept hot and
stuffy in the hope that this would
induce thirst on the part of the
When he thought about it later
he decided it was undoubtedly the
humidity that had caused the ca-
tastrophe, but when it happened
he hadn't the foggiest notion what
was going on.
All he knew was that he had
signalled a waitress for a third
beer, she had come threading her
way between the postage-stamp
tables, he had looked up to give
his order, she had looked down
impersonally, and then there was a
It took a moment to realize that
the waitress was screaming at him,
and by that time there were shouts
from the surrounding tables as well,
and men and women alike were
stumbling all over themselves to
get away from Charles.
In no time at all, there was a
first-rate riot in progress, then the
lights went out, and Charles had
brains enough to fight his way to
an exit and slip into the dark alley
And then Charles inspected him-
self and realized the horrible truth.
The key concept to Charles' so-
ciety was expressed in the word
had had its beginning in the early
Industrial Revolution, when men
first discovered that it was far more
efficient to make a thousand pieces
of furniture if you made them all
And since efficiency means eco-
nomic predictability, and since pre-
dictability means stability. Stand-
ardization quickly became the
watchword in the world's new in-
So, in time, virtually every prod-
uct manufactured was standard-
ized. From the smallest bolts and
screws in a wristwatch, through
automobile license plates, to cloth-
ing styles ; everything manufactured
was strictly standard equipment.
Of course, the only unpredict-
able factor in this structure was the
human element, therefore the log-
ical answer was a standardized
The trend had started, undoubt-
edly, in Hollywood. The Art of
Cinematography had not existed
long before becoming the Motion
Picture Industry. And, naturally,
an industry must be efficient.
The Hollywood tycoons had de-
cided that the best way to reduce
the margin of risk on any new
movie star was to create an arbi-
trary criterion, and to require the
potential star to measure up to that
Charles vyas absently aware that
the female standard of beauty had
been exemplified by a woman
named Marilyn, and that the mas-
culine standard had been repre-
sented in someone named Marlon.
So, gradually, all of the new fe-
male stars that were selected by
Hollywood resembled Marilyn as
much as possible, and male leads
were selected to look like Marlon.
If anyone had a nose that wasn't
quite right, or large ears, a little
plastic surgery quickly remedied
the problem, and if a female starlet
happened to have brown hair, per-
oxide was always handy.
And in time, it became increas-
ingly difficult to tell one movie star
Then the standard, idealized
faces and their standards, idealized
personal mannerisms became so-
cially fashionable, and with modern
cosmetics and readily available
plastic surgery, the fashionable
men and women in society began to
imitate the ideal.
It became not only fashionable to
wear the Standard face, but in-
decent not to do so. Social conform-
ity was encouraged as much as
possible, and the end result was the
closest thing to a Standardized, pre-
dictable consumer as there ever
This might have produced diffi-
cult problems, because with all
women and all men wearing iden-
tical clothing and identical faces, it
might have become impossible to
tell one person from another, which
was not desirable even in a Stand-
THE STANDARDIZED MAN
Along with the Standard face
had come name tags by which a
person might individualize him-
self to the minimum necessary de-
These name tags were worn
about the neck on a colorful plastic
band, with the tag itself, a white
plastic card, on the right side of the
neck. On the tag, in gold lettering,
was the person's name, address,
and Social Security number.
And — they were worn all the
The name tag was the only
means by which a person might
be identified. Without it, anyone
might impersonate anyone else he
pleased. So, of course, it became
obscene to appear in public with-
And Charles, standing in the
alley, looked down at himself and
realized the horrible truth.
He found himself running
through back streets, sidling around
corners, and darting into doorways.
After an hour or two, he realized
that he was no longer within the
Charles took a good look around
him and discovered he was stand-
ing on a minor highway just out-
side of town. There were no cars or
people in sight, and he dropped
off the road into some bushes to
get his wind and think.
He had known there was some-
thing wrong with the molecular
structure of the suit he was wear-
ing, but Edwin wouldn't listen.
It had undoubtedly been the
humidity. The chemical process
had no doubt been going on since
he'd first donned the suit, but it
had been the heat in that beer
joint that had accelerated the
action enough to finish the job.
Human perspiration acting on the
new fiber in the collar of his suit
produced some obscure chemical
reaction which had a corrosive
effect on the plastic band and plas-
tic card of his name tag.
He had to get home, somehow,
and tell Edwin to hold up produc-
tion on the new thermostatic suit.
Perhaps the flaw in it could be
eliminated in a short time. If it
couldn't . . .
He considered. The world Dol-
lar Standard had been absolutely
stable for more years than he knew
about. What would happen if it
suddenly became unstable? A fluc-
tuation of even a fraction of a cent
would cause widespread panic; it
would jolt the Public's faith in its
infallible economic system. And the
panic would cause further devi-
ation in the Dollar's purchasing
power, and — more panic.
He wiped his brow. If the situ-
ation in the Textile Industry was as
critical as Edwin said it was, then
Edwin and his superiors weren't
going to be at all happy when
Charles told them about the suit
— and Charles was going to be
the fall guy.
But of course he had to get back
and tell them. Because Edwin was
all set to start production on the
all-weather suit immediately, and
if he actually went through with
that and got a few million of them
onto consumer's backs, the result
would be not panic, but disaster.
And Charles' present problem
was how to get home without being
IT WAS then that one individual
got an extremely tough break,
and Charles got his first lucky one.
A turbocar came barreling down
the highway and, without warning
struck an embankment. The driver
was thrown fifty feet from the
Under different circumstances,
he would never have considered
doing what he did then. The pen-
alty for wearing another person's
name tag was severe. But Charles
was under an extreme emotional
strain; and without even thinking,
he bent over the limp grey form of
the other marlon and removed his
He straightened, then, clutching
the plastic band and looking around
at the smoking wreck. Already, he
could hear a siren somewhere in
He slipped the name tag over his
head and struck out through the
bushes toward the city.
His plan was simple; he had
another name tag in his apartment
for emergency purposes, and if
Ingrid was in bed he'd have no
trouble getting it, destroying the
one he was wearing now, and
putting on his other suit.
Briefly, he wondered what the
police would think of finding a
body near a smashed car with no
name tag. They'd probably decide
it was the same person that had
caused the disturbance at the night
club earlier in the evening.
Charles realized that the letter-
ing on the car had indicated it was
a public, coin-operated vehicle, so
the authorities would have no
means of identifying the body.
After awhile it occurred to him
that if he should go into hiding
someplace, the body might easily
be identified as his own, and he
wouldn't have to worry about what
Edwin and the other bosses would
do to him. It probably wouldn't be
noticed that the torn and blood-
spattered clothes on the corpse were
not thermostatic. But he shook his
head resolutely. Even if he were
crazy enough to try it, the body
would be reported missing by some-
body or other, so that would never
Eventually, Charles reached a
main thoroughfare in the city and
hailed a cab. He climbed in the
back, told the driver briefly to takfe
him home, and then slumped down
in the seat and brooded.
He stared out the window, watch-
ing the buildings go by, and the
emotional reaction of the evening
began to set in. Morbidly, Charles
wondered what they'd do to him if
he kept his mouth shut and let the
Industry put the suit into produce
tion, and waited for the millions of
ID tags to begin to drop off.
The prospect was so frightening
that his apprehension over what
would happen if it was discovered
he was wearing somebody else's
tag almost disappeared.
Finally, the cab rolled to a
stop. Charles got out and dropped
some coins into the hand protrud-
ing from the front seat, and, head
low, he turned and entered the
THE STANDARDIZED MAN
He trudged dismally up the
stairs, thinking about his wife. He
wondered what would happen if
she were awake and waiting for
him. If she saw that he had on
somebody else's name tag.
The door was unlocked.
And the light was on.
He wondered if he could duck
into the bedroom without being
seen, and then someone leaped at
him and he knew it was too late.
"Oh, James dear!" she cried,
throwing her arms around Charles'
neck. "When you walked out of
here, I thought you'd never come
back to me!"
Charles looked at the marilyn's
name tag with slow horror and
realized that in his preoccupation,
out of sheer force of habit, he had
simply said to the cab driver, "Take
me home," and the driver had
looked at the address on his tag and
complied. The apartment building
so much resembled Charles' own
that he hadn't known the difTer-
ence, and he hadn't bothered to
look at the number on the door.
When Charles walked in, this
Marilyn, Stasia her name was, had
looked at his name tag and thought
he was her James. She didn't have
the slightest idea of who he really
Then Charles closed his eyes,
swallowed, and knew something
It really didn't make the least
bit of difference who he was. And
of course, the solution to all his
troubles was obvious.
With a sigh, Charles leaned over
Stasia and kissed her. END
Life is pretty strange when a
god who is good and benevo-
lent must prove that he has
Feet of Clay
BY PHILLIP HOSKINS
THE PROBLEM," said Cassidy,
"would seem to be simple."
He thumped his outsized knuckles
against the desk. "Almost too
"Why?" The other was a wearer
of the black and silver uniform of
Extrasol Traders; a short man,
made shorter by the beer-barrel
shape of his body and the extreme
width of his shoulders. His head
was capped with close-cropped
Illustrated by Paul Orban
"Why?" he repeated. "I've been
studying it ever since it first
cropped up, and I must admit that
it's been beyond me."
"I must confess, Dillon," said
Cassidy, "I wonder how you ever
rose to the managerial ranks of
Extrasol. I find it hard to imagine
a personnel man stupid enough to
put you in charge of even a back-
water planet like this Kash. Surely
somebody in the home ofRce must
know how dumb you are?"
"My dumbness is not the sub-
ject of this conversation," said Dil-
lon, grimly. "I didn't like the idea
of calling in a trouble-shooter. I
liked it even less when I found out
it was to be you."
Cassidy grinned. "You mean
my wonderful personality hasn't
made an impression on you? I'm
cut to the quick."
"I put up with you for only one
reason. You know aliens, far bet-
ter than I could ever hope to.
You're about the best in the field."
"Only about? Really, Dillon, if
you knew of someone better than
me, why didn't you get them?"
"All right!" He shouted the
words. "You're the best! But you
still haven't explained why the
problem seems simple to you." He
pulled out a cigarette, and bit
down savagely on the end, only to
spit out the loose tobacco amidst a
sputter of curses.
"The misfortunes of being feeble-
minded," sighed Cassidy. "But
for your sake, I'll take you by the
hand, and try to lead you down
the road of intelligence. But first,
you better go over the situation
"We are on Kash," said Dillon,
visibly controlling his patience.
"It's the fourth world of a G-type
sun of the periphery, unnamed in
the catalogues. For that reason,
we have assigned it the native
name. Kash is their term for both
the star and the planet, and
roughly translates as 'home of the
"The planet was first contacted
during the great galactic expansion
of 2317, when the sole native lan-
guage was taped. The planet is ap-
proximately two-thirds the size of
Earth, but its density is somewhat
less, so the gravity is about half
that of Earth. It is moonless, and
so far from galactic center that
scarcely a hundred stars are visible
in the sky. Thus a trained observer
can usually pick out the other five
planets of the system with no
trouble at all." He paused, and
took a drink of water.
"Six months ago it was contacted
by Unit 317 of Extrasol Trad-
ers . . ."
"Namely you," said Cassidy.
"Me. A month was spent map-
ping the planet and searching out
native villages. I then returned to
base and picked up supplies neces-
sary for setting up an outpost. Two
months ago I returned.
"And all Hell broke loose . . ."
Night fell quickly, and with little
relief on Kash, for the stars were
few and far between, and shed
little light. Dillon stepped out of
the office that was doing double-
duty as living quarters until sepa-
rate quarters could be set up, and
started for the nearby well. He
cursed as he realized his flashlight
still lay on the desk, but the light
pouring from the open door was
enough to see by, and he decided
As he walked, he breathed deep-
ly of the tangy night air, and
sighed with satisfaction. This
world was infinitely more pleasur-
able than the last he had posted,
and he intended to enjoy his stay.
He let his thoughts ramble as
he walked and so almost ran down
the waiting alien before he saw
him. The native's huge eyes
gleamed softly in the spill of light
from the office, and the gray down
that covered his body and head,
except for the face, seemed soft
"Tarsa, Bila," said the Earth-
man, using the native greeting.
"Tarsa, starman. May the Gods
shine their eternal light on you."
"And on you," Dillon said,
observing the ritual. "But what
brings you here at night?"
"The night is beautiful, is it not,
starman? It shines with a glory
all its own. At times it would
seem to outdo its brother, the day."
"Indeed," he agreed. "Your
world is one of the loveliest I have
yet seen, and my travels have led
me over as many stars as there
are waves on the sea. But surely
you did not come to talk merely
of the night and its beauty."
"Alas, no," sighed the native.
"My task is a most unhappy one,
for sorrow hangs heavy over the
village. The women and children
are weeping, and the men know
not what to do in the face of
calamity. It seems as though the
Gods themselves have turned
against my people." He wiped his
eyes with the back of his hand,
"What would you with me,
Bila?" asked the Earthman. "Surely
I cannot be of any assistance?"
"As a man from the sky, surely
you have met the Gods in open
battle before!" cried the alien.
"And just as surely you must have
defeated them, else you would not
be here this night."
"I am flattered, Bila. It is true
that the Gods of the universe and
I are not total strangers. Exactly
what is wrong?"
"It is Toll, the son of Kylano.
He has fallen from a cliff, and the
bones of his arm are broken and
"But isn't that a job for the
"Aye. But our priest has been
on a pilgrimage these past ten
days, and is to be gone another
thirty or more. There is no one
left with the necessary knowledge.
You will come?"
"I'll come, Bila. But first I must
get a bag from the office. With it I
may be able to help the boy."
"Ah, you too have an herb basket
like the priest's? Truly you are a
friend of the Gods."
"Not quite like the priest's,"
said Dillon, smiling. "But it serves
much the same purpose." He hur-
ried up the path and into the shack,
emerging a moment later with the
first-aid bag that was standard
equipment for all men isolated
from the services of a doctor.
"That's where you made your
first mistake," said Cassidy. "Reg-
ulation 1287-63C, paragraph 119
states 'no man shall give medical
aid to alien races unless a team of
certified specialists has checked out
all such medicines with respect to
such race and certified them safe.
Penalty for breaking rule: Re-
vocation of any licenses; restriction
to home world for three years ; and/
or five thousand dollars fine.' You
really did things up right. You
should have left that bag in the
safe where it belonged."
"Well, I didn't," said Dillon.
"And it's too late now to talk of
what I should have done. At any
rate . . ."
"Where is the boy, Bila?" asked
Dillon as he came up to the alien
"At my village, starman. Come."
He slipped down the path and was
soon swallowed by the darkness.
The Earthman hurried after,
afraid of being lost in the almost
He had forgotten the flashlight
again, and he cursed as he stumbled
over an unseen obstruction.
"Bila!" he called.
"Yes, starman?" The alien ap-
peared as if from nowhere.
"I'm afraid that I'm not as
gifted as you when it comes to
traveling at night without light.
You had better let me hold onto
"Of course, starman, I am most
sorry for causing you trouble."
"It's my own fault. I should
have remembered the light. Let's
get going again." He placed his
hand on the alien's shoulder, and
they started off again. . •
FEET OF CLAY
Despite his guide, he twice
stumbled over obstructions, and
would have fallen but for his grip
on the other's shoulder. Bila waited
while he steadied himself, and then
started off again, keeping up a fast
The village lay three miles from
the post, and during the day, Dillon
considered it nothing more than
a brisk walk. But the blindness
that came with the dark wiped out
all realization of time and space,
and he soon began to think that
they must have passed it by, when
the alien spoke.
"We are here, starman."
They rounded a bend, and a
cluster of huts came into view,
lit by the dim light of a few scat,
tered lamps. The alien threaded
his way through 'the narrow lanes
between the huts, and stopped out-
side one of the largest in the group.
He held the hangings aside, and
Dillon stooped to enter.
The hut was already crowded
with natives. The smoke from half
a dozen of the sputtering lamps
hung like a shroud over the in-
terior, and the Earthman's eyes
were soon smarting. He wondered
how the natives, with their much
larger eyes, could stand it.
The injured boy lay on a pallet
in the center of the hut. An animal
skin had been thrown over him,
with the broken arm exposed. Dil-
lon knelt by him, and felt it over
"A clean break, thank God," he
said, more to himself than his
The boy whimpered, and he
reached for the bag, and rum-
maged around. Finally he pulled
out an already prepared hypo,
loaded with a sedative. He swabbed
the boy's good arm, and pressed
the needle home.
The natives moved forward
when they saw the needle, and
some of them began to mutter.
But the boy quickly dropped off
into an untroubled sleep, and they
The Earthman took hold of the
broken arm, and marvelled at the
frailty of it. The bones had to hold
a lighter weight than those of
Earthmen, and thus were cor-
respondingly weaker. He felt that
he could snap one of them with
He straightened the arm out, as
gently as he could, and then pulled.
The broken ends slid together with
a satisfying pop, and he quickly
bound them with a splint from his
bag. He wrapped the bandage
tight, and tied it. Then he arose,
picking up his bag.
"He should be alright now," he
said. "I'll stop by in the morning,
when he's awake, and give him
"His arm," said Bila. "It is . . .
"Yes. He's young, and he should
heal fast. Three weeks from now
he'll be out with the other children,
playing games and just as active as
"We thank you, starman," said
Bila. "We have not the words to
say just how happy we are that
you have helped us."
"It's nothing," said Dillon, em-
barrassed by the show of gratitude.
"All Earthmen would do the same."
"Ah, your magic must be even
greater than that of the priests. It
is most unfortunate that the village
priest was away. But the Gods have
smiled on us, by sending you in-
"He'll be back soon, I hope?"
said Dillon. "The priest, I mean."
"Alas, not for at least thirty
days, and perhaps more. He knew
not where his pilgrimage would
"But if you have more troubles
"Our misfortunes," said Bila, his
face downcast. "If the Gods see
fit to abandon us to the miseries of
the world, what can mere men say?
If some must die, than they shall
"No!" He regretted the word
the moment it was out, but it was
too late to recall it. The milk was
spilt, and crying would be foolish
at this point. "No. If you have
troubles, come to me. I will do
what I can, although I am not
sure that it will be much."
"Ten million thanks, starman!"
His eyes glistened with joy. "Our
people shall be eternally grateful."
"You'd better save your thanks,
until you're sure that I can help
you. But right now, I'd appreciate
a guide back to the post, and a
lamp, so I don't fall anymore."
"Of course. It shall be done im-
mediately." He motioned for one
of the men in the hut, who came
with a lamp. Bila held the hangings
aside, and the two passed outside
into the blackness again.
The trip back to the trader's
shack passed without mishap and
Dillon went to sleep quite pleased.
TEN DAYS PASSED. They
were days of intensified effort
for Dillon, as he went about the
task of setting up the rest of the
post. The warehouse came first,
and the living quarters. The office
that had been serving double-duty
reverted to its primary function.
Occasionally a few natives would
drop around to gaze at the work-
in-progress, but they would soon
grow bored, and drift away to
other amusements. He had twice
been back to the village to look at
the boy, but so far nothing else had
come up to require his meagre
medical knowledge. He was begin-
ning to think that he might last out
until the priest returned. He had
been rereading the regulations ,
covering contact, and the penalties
were much too harsh for his liking.
He began to worry about hiding
traces of his one experiment.
The noonday sun was on the
wane when he finished wrestling
the last of a group of bins into
the warehouse. He pulled out his
kerchief, and wiped the accumu-
lated sweat from his eyes. The sum-
mer season was full on the land,
and the heat was as bad as any
he had seen on Earth.
He brought his lunch out to
the office porch, and sank down
in the rocker that he had brought
from his last post. There was a
slight breeze blowing diagonally
across the clearing in front of the
building, and he shifted around
to receive its full benefit.
The first bite was scarcely in his
mouth when Bila came into sight
around the bend of the path. He
cursed silently, and put down his
FEET OF CLAY
sandwich. He stood up to welcome
"Tarsa, Bila," he said. "What
brings you here today?"
"Sadness again wearies our
people, and we know not what to
do. The Gods are indeed angered
with us, and our priest is still away."
"Just what is it this time?"
"It is Kylano. He is at death's
door, and the messengers of the
Gods can be heard waiting to take
him beyond." Two tears broke
loose and rolled down his leathery
"The boy's father?" said Dillon.
The alien nodded.
"But what is wrong with him?"
"Alas, we do not know. He was
swimming in the lake, when a de-
mon possessed one of the fishes, and
bit him on the leg. When he came
out of the water, a fever lay heavi-
ly over him, and he has become un-
"And you want me to save him."
It was a statement, rather than a
question, and the native recognized
it as such.
"If it be within your power,
starman. If you do not come, he
must surely die."
"All right, Bila. I'll do whatever
I can." He ducked inside the office,
and came out again with his bag.
They set oiT down the path.
"Your second major mistake,"
said Cassidy. "You were lucky
with the boy, but you should have
come to your senses enough to leave
the bag behind on the second call.
You were just stepping out into
"But the man was sick, and I
didn't know what else to do but
use the medicines. I couldn't let
"Why not? I've got feelings and
a conscience. That's why! I couldn't
just stand by and do nothing.
Especially when the sedative
worked on the boy!"
"It would have been far better
to let one man die than to have the
aliens come to regard you as higher
than their own priests."
"It's easy enough for you to say
what I should have done here, but
I think your own actions would
have been far different if you had
been in my place."
"I doubt it. I'd never have been
made trouble-shooter, if I didn't
have the brains to avoid a mess
like that. I still think you're just
"My thoughts of you are better
left unsaid. At any rate, when we
got to the village ..."
It was the same hut, and a
crowd that may or may not have
been present the earlier night. The
numbers were the same. The only
change was the lack of the over-
hanging pall of smoke from the
The man occupied the same pal-
let as the boy, and the crowd made
way for Dillon as he moved to his
side. It was readily apparent that
he was very ill, and Dillon uttered
a silent prayer that he had some-
thing in the kit to help him.
The leg wound was nasty and
crusted over. He swabbed it clean,
blanching when he saw its depth.
Steadying himself, he bound it
tightly, and sat back on his heels
to ponder his next move.
The bandage would prevent any
further infection, but the Earth-
man was afraid the damage had
already been done. The fever lay
heavily on the native, and he
tossed and turned in his coma. The
drugs in the bag were all intended
for use by Terrans only, and an
attempt to aid the slight alien
might only result in death. Whereas
if he were left alone to ride out
the fever, he just might come
through all right.
Kylano let out a muted sob, and
struck out wildly, nearly hitting
Dillon in the face. He cursed, and
turned to his bag, selecting the
most catholic antibiotic it con-
tained. He looked up at the watch-
ing crowd, but they just stared
back impassively. He cursed again,
and swabbed a spot on the native's
arm, and thrust home the needle.
He threw the empty hypo back
in the bag, and shut it savagely.
Then he stood up, and looked
around for Bila.
"A drink of water, please," he
said, catching the other's eye.
"Certainly, starman," he replied,
handing over a gourd.
Dillon drank deeply, then wiped
his mouth. He handed back the
gourd and picked up his bag. As
he pushed his way through the
crowd, Bila followed.
"Kylano will be well now?" said
"I don't know. I just don't know.
I hope so."
"Is there anything more you can
"Perhaps. If I knew just what he
was sick with, and I had the right
drugs to treat it, I could do a lot.
As it is . . ." He left the sentence
"If the Gods will it, he will live."
"Pray that they will it. In the
meantime, you might bathe his
forehead every now and then. It'll
help to make him more comfort-
"In any event, we thank you,
starman. With our priest gone . . ."
"Why did your priest leave on
such a long journey, Bila? I should
think he would be more concerned
with the care of his flock."
"The ways of the priesthood are
beyond the comprehension of ordi-
nary men. When the Gods speak
to them, they obey, no matter how
onerous the orders may be. If men
must suffer during their absence,
it is unfortunate. But it must be."
"Then I'd think that your priests
would see to it that someone in the
village would know what to do in
case of emergency."
"Oh, no!" He seemed horrified
at the thought. "Knowledge is for
the Gods to give to the chosen
ones. Common men would not be
worthy of it, for it is certain that
they do not have the intelligsnce
to deal with it properly. Only the
priests are wise enough to be so
honored. Priests and men from
the stars," he added, as an after-
"Well, in any event, I hope you
don't need me any more . . ."
"But they did need you," said
"Unfortunately, yes. Four more
times in the twenty days before the
FEET OF CLAY
return of the priest."
"What were the troubles?"
"Once, it was to aid in child-
birth — my first adventure as a mid-
wife," he said, remembering the
event and his shame at his igno-
rance in the matter. He had had
to take directions from the woman.
"Once, a hunter had fallen in an
animal trap, and broken both his
legs," he continued. "And twice, it
was for sickness."
"The same one as this Kylano?"
"I don't know. I couldn't hope
to diagnose it, so I just shot them
full of antibiotics, and prayed for
"You should have prayed for
brains instead. But all of your sick
"Yes. I couldn't seem to do any-
thing wrong, and it wasn't long be-
fore the natives were beginning
to look on me as the personal rep-
resentative of their Gods. It was
embarrassing, the way they fawned
"Tell me," said Cassidy. "You
said you read the regs over. Why
in the name of all that's holy
didn't you have the sense to follow
"I couldn't stand by and watch
them die! I had to help them, Cas-
sidy. Damn it, I had to!"
"Yeah, sure. But go on."
"Well, to shorten matters, the
local priest finally got back from
his pilgrimage, and took up his
old duties. All went well for about
a week, and then another alien be-
came ill. The priest heard about
it, naturally, and went to his aid.
But it seems my percentage of re-
coveries was better than his at
ils very best. They wouldn't let
him even near the sick one. Instead,
they sent for me."
"Of course. I didn't know the
priest was back, and what else
could I do?"
"I shudder to think. What hap-
"The native got well, and the
tribe practically pitched the priest
out on his ear. He went running
to his superiors, and they called
a council of war. They banned
the natives from the post, and
threatened to cut off any who
were seen with me from all priestly
"The tribe made an almighty
stink. They called their own coim-
cil, and there was practically civil
war. That's when I called you. Or,
rather, the nearest trouble-shooter."
"Ah, me. Why is it that I, Cas-
sius Cassidy, get saddled with all
of the real stinkers in the galaxy?
I don't mind shooting other
people's troubles for them, but I
do resent the fact that the messiest
ones get dumped in my lap. Some-
times I feel like resigning."
"Cassidy, one of these days . . ."
"Oh, simmer down. I said there
was a simple solution to your prob-
lem, and I knew what I was
talking about. The natives have
been so taken in by your ridiculous-
ly lucky flukes that they think
vou're the next thing to a Gk)d.
"Right." Each looked as though
the other were something unmen-
tionable, left over from the last
cleaning of the cesspool.
"So we just . . ." He leaned for-
ward and outlined his plan.
FIVE DAYS PASSED, peace-
ably. The natives gave the post
a wide margin; not even Bila
showed his face. Dillon began to
think that maybe there was a
chance things would go back to
normal by themselves; and that
Cassidy's plan would not be neces-
The first four days were merely
a continuation of the heat. The two
Earthmen sat around the office,
speaking only when it was absolute-
ly unavoidable, and then only in
snarls. Dillon sent out a rush re-
quest for air conditioning equip-
ment, omitted, by some mistake,
from the supplies.
The fifth day was as sunny as
ever, but a stiff west wind sprang
up, and the temperature was bear-
able. Cassidy smiled for the first
time in days, and Dillon tried to
be pleasant to him.
The sixth day broke with an un-
ceasing torrent of rain, and the
men returned to their surly grum-
"i hope the post isn't washed
away," said Cassidy. "This stonn
begins to assume the aspects of
the Biblical flood."
"We're safe enough," said Dil-
lon. "Only . . ."
"Nothing. Just a hunch."
"Good or bad?"
"Bad. All bad. I've got a feeling
we're due for a visit."
As if on cue, a knock came on
the office door. Dillon opened it,
and stood aside for the throughly
bedraggled alien waiting outside.
Bila was a sorry caricature of him-
self, with his down plastered to his
body. Water dripped from him in
a steady stream.
"Tarsa, starman," he said.
"Tarsa, Bila," replied Dillon.
"I've been expecting you."
"Oh? Do you then have the
powers of foreseeing the future,
"No," he said, laughing. "It's
just that it's been several days
since you were last here. You were
overdue for a visit."
Cassidy cleared his throat, and
Dillon turned to him.
"This is Cassidy, Bila," he said.
"He is my brother from the stars,
and has come to visit me for a
"Tarsa, Cassidy," the native said,
"Tarsa, Bila. I have been hoping
to meet a member of your people."
"Oh? Has the fame of Kash
spread far through the universe
"Indeed, all of the civilized
worlds talk of Kash and its gentle
folk. It is a eommon ambition to
be able to come here and see you
in person. It is hoped that soon
such travel will be most frequent,
to the reward of both of our
"Indeed," said Bila. "I thank
you in the name of my people.
Will you yourself be here long?"
"Unfortunately, no. But when I
go I will take fond memories as
"What is so important that it
brought you out in this storm,
FEET OF CLAY
Bila?" asked Dillon, breaking into
the conversation. "Your troubles
must be pressing."
"Indeed, they are. The Gods
frown heavily on our village this
day, and I have come once more
to seek your intercession."
"What is the matter?" asked
"Alas, the trouble is in my own
household. My wife lies at the door
to death, and I fear she is fast
"Haven't you had the priest in?"
"Against your great and won-
drous magic, Dillon, what is the
priest? He is like a lost little boy,
unable to tell North from East,
and helpless in the face of death.
Only you have the power to bring
her back to the world of the living,
as you did with Kylano and the
"I thank you for your trust,""
said Dillon. "I only hope it is not
"You will come?"
"Of course. As soon as I dress
for the storm, and get my bag." He
turned to do so, then was struck by
an afterthought. "By the way, do
you mind if Cassidy comes with
us? He would appreciate the chance
to see your village."
"It will be an honor."
"Good. Get into your togs, Cass."
They were soon ready. Dillon
grabbed up his bag, and he fol-
lowed the native out into the
storm. The rain blew straight to-
ward them, and they bent forward,
into the wind. The trip to the vil-
lage was a fight all the way.
The village itself had become
isolated; an island in the midst of
a shallow lake. They waded across,
to the hut that was Bila's. He held
the hangings aside, and the Earth-
men stepped into the stink of the
The omnipresent lamps were lit,
and the smoke hung heavy. Both of
the Earthmen were soon wishing
they had protection for their smart-
The natives stopjjed their keen-
ing, and made room for the two
men. They both moved forward,
and bent over the woman. Dillon
could see that she was as sick as
the others, but whether or not it
was the same disease, he could
not say. For the eighth such time,
he wished he had taken medical
training as a youth, in deference
to his family's wishes.
"It's hot in here," said Cassidy.
Sweat beaded out on his forehead,
and he wiped it away with a shak-
"Small wonder," said Dillon,
"with all these people here. They
must up the temperature by twenty
degrees." He opened his bag, and
dug out a swab. After cleaning a
spot on her arm, he dug out a
needle, and filled it from an
He whirled around, "Cass!
What's the matter?"
"I . . . don't know. Woozy. I
feel woozy." He staggered, and fell
"Cass!" He bent over the man,
and turned him over. Cassidy's face
was white, and the sweat rolled
off in rivulets. Dillon felt for a
pulse, and then pulled out a stetho-
scope. Baring the other's chest, he
listened for a beat.
"What is it, Dillon?" asked Bila.
"What is wrong?"
"I don't know. He's sick." He
"Sick?" The natives stared at
each other, unbelieving.
"Yes, sick! Earthmen get sick
too, you know!" He bared Cassidy's
arm, and swabbed it clean. Then
he pressed home the needle he had
prepared for the woman.
"He will get well?" asked Bila.
"I don't know." Dillon felt for
a pulse again. Disbelief washed
over his face, and he sank back on
"What is it?"
"Dead?" Amazement took hold
"Dead." The Earthman stood
up, shaking his head. "But your
wife, Bila. I must attend to her."
"No." The native stepped be-
tween the man and woman, and
held out his arms.
"No? Why not?"
"The Gods have frowned on you,
starman. It is obvious that they are
dissatisfied with you, for they took
"But just because Cassidy died
doesn't mean your wife will." He
stared at the lesser being, dum-
founded. "But she might, if not
"We shall get the priest. We can-
not run the risk of offending the
Gods by permitting you to touch
The Earthman stared from face
to face, but the same message was
written on all. Hopelessness took
the place of question, and he
turned, and stumbled from the
hut, and into the storm.
"Take the man to the post," said
Bila. Several of the men hurried
to do his bidding. They carried
Cassidy out into the night, with-
out looking back.
"Simple," said Cassidy. "Just
like I said." He was hunched over
his coffee, his ham-like hands soak-
ing up the warmth from the cup.
"Simple," said Dillon. "I don't
get it. Just why did they stop me
from treating the woman?"
"We come from the stars, which
the natives associate with the home
of the Gods. We don't look quite
like their legends say Gods should,
but they figured we must be close
to them, so they credited us with
omnipotent powers. The priests
claimed the cures they affected were
done with the grace of the al-
mighty, and the natives figured
your cures came from the same
"I can't figure why they wouldn't
even let me touch her," said Dillon.
"It doesn't make sense."
"Actually, if you had given her
the shot without me on the scene,
and she had died, they probably
would have accepted it as the will
of the Gods. The priests fail once
in awhile, and they just claim
that the Gods have wanted that
particular person to die. But when
you were unable to save me, an-
other man from the stars, and
therefore presumably a close ac-
quaintance of the Almighty, they
could come to only one conclu-
sion: The Gods withdrew their
blessings from you. After that they
wouldn't have let you touch a sick
pig — if they have pigs here." He
drained his cup.
A roar sounded down from the
sky, building up into a wail that
scraped the spines of the hearers.
It rose to a crescendo, and then
came a jarring shock that shud-
dered the whole building.
"My chauffeur," said Cassidy.
"Hot-rodding, as usual." He rose,
and picked up his baggage.
"You know, Dillon," he said,
"You're a jerk. I'll tell my grand-
children about you. You're a per-
fect example of what not to do."
He shook his head. "A horrible
FEET OF CLAY
OUT FROM THE SUN
(Continued from page 81)
derstand the strange doom that
had befallen it? There are a thou-
sand such questions that may never
be answered. It is hard to see how
a creature born in the fires of the
Sun itself could know anything of
the external universe, or could
even sense the existence of some-
thing as unutterably cold as rigid
non-gaseous matter. The living
island that was falling upon us
from space could never have con-
ceived, however intelligent it
might be, of the world it was so
Now it filled our sky — and per-
haps, in those last few seconds, it
knew that something strange was
ahead of it. It may have sensed the
far-flung magnetic field of Mercu-
ry, or felt the tug of our little
world's gravitational pull. For it
had begun to change ; the luminous
lines that must have been what
passed for its nervous system were
clumping together in new patterns,
and I would have given much to
know their meaning. It may be that
I was looking into the brain of a
mindless beast in its last convulsion
of fear — or of a god-like being mak-
ing its peace with the universe.
Then the radar screen was emp-
ty, wiped clean during a single
scan of the beam. The creature
had fallen below our horizon, and
was hidden from us now by the
curve of the planet. Far out in the
burning Dayside of Mercury, in
the inferno where only a dozen men
have ever ventured and fewer still
come back alive, it smashed silent-
ly and invisibly against the seas
of molten metal, the hiUs of slow-
ly moving lava. The mere impact
could have meant nothing to such
an entity; what it could not endure
was its first contact with the incon-
ceivable cold of solid matter.
Yes, cold. It had descended upon
the hottest spot in the Solar System,
where the temperature never falls
below seven hundred degrees
Fahrenheit and sometimes ap-
proaches a thousand. And that was
far, far colder to it than the Ant-
arctic winter would be to a naked
We did not see it die, out there
in the freezing fire; it was beyond
the reach of our instruments now,
and none of them recorded its end.
Yet every one of us knew when
that moment came, and that is
why we are not interested when
those who have seen only the films
and tapes tell us that we were
watching some purely natural
How can one explain what we
felt, in that last moment when half
our little world was enmeshed in
the dissolving tendrils of that huge
but immaterial brain? I can only
say that it was a soundless cry
of anguish, a death-pang that
seeped into our minds without pass-
ing through the gateways of the
senses. Not one of us doubted
then, or has ever doubted since,
that he had witnessed the passing
of a giant.
We may have been both the
first and the last of all men to
see so mighty a fall. Whatever they
may be, in their unimaginable
world within the Sun, our paths and
theirs may never cross again. It is
hard to see how we can ever make
contact with them, even if their
intelligence matches ours.
And does it? It may be well for
us if we never know the answer.
Perhaps they have been living there
inside the Sun since the Universe
was born, and have climbed to
peaks of wisdom which we shall
never scale. The future may be
theirs, not ours; already they may
be talking across the light-years
to their cousins in other stars.
One day they may discover us,
by whatever strange senses they
possess, as we circle round their
mighty, ancient home, proud of
our knowledge and thinking our-
selves lords of creation. They may
not like what they find, for to
them we should be no more than
maggots, crawling upon worlds too
cold to cleanse themselves from the
corruption of organic life.
And then, if they have the
power, they will do what they
consider necessary. The Sun will
put forth its strength and lick the
faces of its children; and thereafter
the planets will go their way once
more, as they were in the beginning,
clean, and bright . . . and sterile.
(Continued from page 76)
Myka, sat on his porch. One of
the tribesmen was wrapping Geof-
frey's and Dugald's forearms to-
gether. Geoffrey watched him with
complete detachment. He stole a
glance over toward Weatherby's
porch, and it seemed to him that
Myka was tense and anxious. He
couldn't be sure . . .
The fingers of his right hand
gripped the haft of The Bar-
barian's knife. He held it with his
thumb along the blade, knowing
that if he drew his arm up, to stab
downward, or back, to slash,
Dugald would have a perfect open-
ing. It was his thought, remem-
bering that razor-keen blade, that
he ought to be able to do plenty
of damage with a simple under-
hand twist of his arm. He did not
look down to see how Dugald was
holding the knife he'd been given.
That would have been unfair.
The crowd of watching tribes-
men was completely silent. This was
a serious business with them, Geof-
The tribesman tying their wrists
had finished the job. He stepped
back. "Anytime after I say 'Go,'
you boys set to it. Anything goes
and dead man loses. If you don't
fight, we kill you both."
For the first time since their
capture, Geoffrey looked squarely
into Dugald's slit eyes. "I'm sorry
we have to do this to each other in
this way, Dugald," he said.
"Go!" the tribesman shouted,
and jumped back.
Dugald spat at Geoffrey's face.
Geoffrey twitched his head invol-
untarily, realized what he done,
and threw himself off his feet, pul-
ling Dugald with him and just
escaping the downward arc of
Dugald's plunging knife. The
momentum of Dugald's swing,
combined with Geoffrey's weight,
pulled him completely over Geof-
frey's shoulder. The two of them
jerked abruptly flat on the ground,
their shoulders wrenched, sprawled
out facing each other and tied to-
gether like two cats on a string.
The crowd shouted.
Geoffrey had landed full on his
ribs, and for a moment he saw
nothing but a red mist. Then his
eyes cleared and he was staring
into Dugald's face. Dugald snarled
at him, and pawed out with his
knife, at the advantage now be-
cause he could stab downward.
Geoffrey rolled, and Dugald per-
force rolled with him. The stab
missed again, and Geoffrey, on his
back, jabbed blindly over his head
and reached nothing. Then they
were on their stomachs again.
Dugald was panting, his face
running wet. The long black hair
was full of dust, and his face was
smeared. If ever Geoffrey had seen
a man in an animal state, that was
what Dugald resembled. Geoffrey
thought wildly; Is this what a noble
"I'll kill you!" Dugald bayed at
him, and Geoffrey's hackles rose.
This is not a man, he thought.
This is nothing that deserves to
Dugald's arm snapped back,
knife poised, and drove downward
again. Geoffrey suddenly coiled his
back muscles and heaved on his
left arm, yanking himself up against
Dugald's chest. He snapped his
hips sideward, and Dugald's knife
missed him completely for the third
and fatal time. The Barbarian's
knife slipped upward into Dugald's
rib cage, and suddenly Geoffrey
was drenched with blood. Dugald's
teeth bit into his neck, but the
other man's jaws were already
slackening. Geoffrey let himself
slump, and hoped they would cut
this carrion away from him as soon
as possible. He heard the crowd
yelping, and felt The Barbarian
plucking the knife out of his hand.
His arm was freed, and he rolled
"By God, I knew you had the
stuff," The Barbarian was boom-
ing. "I knew they had to start
breeding men out on the coast
sooner or later. Here — give me your
other wrist." The blade burned his
skin twice each way— once for
victory and once for special apti-
tude — and then Myka pressed a
clotfi to the wound.
She was shaking her head. "I've
never seen it done better. You're
a natural born fighter, Lad. I've
got one of my sisters all picked out
Geoffrey smiJed up at The Bar-
barian, a little ruefully. "It seems
you and I'll be going back to the
coast together, next year."
"Had it in mind all along. Lad,"
The Barbarian said. "If I can't lick
'em, I'll be damned if I won't make
'em join me."
"It's an effective system," Geof-
"That it is. Lad. That it is. And
now, if you'll climb up to your
feet, let's go get you some break-
FEELING OF POWER
(Continued from page 11)
with a man or two within, con-
trolling flight by graphitics, would
be lighter, more mobile, more in-
telligent. It would give us a lead
that might well mean the margin of
victory. Besides which, gentlemen,
the exigencies of war compel us to
remember one thing. A man is
much more dispensable than a com-
puter. Manned missiles could be
launched in numbers and under
circumstances that no good general
would care to undertake as far as
computer-directed missiles are con-
cerned — "
He said much more but Techni-
cian Aub did not wait.
Technician Aub, in the privacy
of his quarters, labored long over
the note he was leaving behind. It
read finally as follows :
"When I began the study of what
is now called graphitics, it was no
more than a hobby. I saw no more
in it than an interesting amusement,
an exercise of mind.
"When Project Number began,
I thought that others were wiser
than I : that graphitics might be put
to practical use as a benefit to man-
kind; to aid in the production of
really practical mass-transference
devices perhaps. But now I see it
is to be used only for death.
"I cannot face the responsibility
involved in having invented gra-
He then deliberately turned the
focus of a protein-depolarizer on
himself and fell instantly and pain-
They stood over the grave of the
little Technician while tribute was
paid to the greatness of his dis-
Programmer Shuman bowed his
head along with the rest of them,
but remained unmoved. The tech-
nician had done his share and was
no longer needed, after all. He
might have started graphitics, but
now that it had started, it would
carry on by itself overwhelmingly,
triumphantly, until manned mis-
siles were possible, along with who
knew what else.
Nine times seven, thought Shu-
man with deep satisfaction, is sixty-
three and I don't need a computer
to tell me so. The computer is in
my own head.
And it was amazing the feeling
of power that gave him. END
WHAT IS YOUR SCIENCE I.Q.?
ANSWERS: 1 — Solid with 12 plane faces. 2 — Sagittarius. 3 — It never
varies. 4 — Tin. 5 — Temperature at which vapor pressure equals one
atmosphere. 6 — Scientific study of Mars. 7 — Gypsum, fluorite, topaz.
8 — Lever, wheel, pulley, inclined plane, wedge, screw. 9 — Joining similar
molecules to make a larger one. 10 — Nobellium. 11 — Both lack true
roots, stems, leaves. 12 — Nitric and hydrochloric acids. 13 — Wind
velocity of 70 m.p.h. 14 — Temperature when substances change mag-
netic behavior. 1 5 — Fission, budding, spores.
A new family of materials, made
from glass, which are harder than
steel, lighter than aluminum and 15
times as strong as plate glass has
been developed by the researchers
at Corning Glass. Named Pyro-
ceram, the new material is a major
contribution and an advance in
glass technology whose production
is a revolutionary manufacturing
process in which non-crystalline
glass is turned into a hard non-
porous crystalline material. It can
be tailor-made with thermal expan-
sions ranging from slightly negative
to high enough to match those of
heavy metals. It can have electrical
insulating properties suf>erior to
those of the best commercial dielec-
tric ceramics. It can be opaque or
transparent, the first polycrystalline
material ever to exhibit this optical
property. Certain types of the ma-
terial keep their strength at tem-
peratures as high as 1300 degrees
Fahrenheit. It can be made into
large or complex shapes by any of
the known glass-forming techniques.
Transportation engineers are learn-
ing that all-aluminum subway cars
may cost less to run and maintain
than the steel cars now in use and
the rush-hour contingent of the fu-
ture will no doubt be jamming into
the new type of subway. Cars with
aluminum bodies and underframes
are strong, light, and corrosion re-
sistant due to a protective oxide on
the surface of the metal. The new
type of car would be about nine
percent lighter than the 47-ton
loaded steel ones and would cost
about $500 less per year to run and
maintain. Longer bearing, wheel
and track life and either more pas-
sengers carried at the same speeds,
or a faster train schedule possible
due to the light weight would ac-
count for much lower maintenance
and operation costs.
The United States Army will soon
replace bottles for blood transfu-
sions with plastic bags that pump
blood when placed under the shoul-
der of a wounded man. The plastic
bags offer the added advantage of
being unbreakable, disposable and,
when empty, taking up only one-
sixth of the space now needed for
storing bottles. Designed to be
placed under the shoulder of the
wounded man, the bags are able to
force the blood at an even rate into
the arm through use of the body
A greotiy improved micro-wave re-
lay system capable of handling more
than 10,000 telephone conversa-
tions, or 12 television programs plus
2,500 telephone conversations will
be in use in about two years. The
new system, called TH for short will
take advantage of advances such as
silicon rectifiers, transistors, and fer-
rite switches that can switch rapidly
and automatically from regular and
emergency equipment in less than a
thousandth of a second. It will
beam signals much as a searchlight
beams visible light, with short-wave,
high-frequency radio waves relay-
ing the information from one line-
of-sight link to another.
A study on solid propellants and
the effects of solid fuel motor re-
quirements for the guided missile
program has revealed that such
fuels will propel most military
rockets of the future. Interest in
solid fuels is based on the fact that
such compounds are safer, easier to
store and require less handling.
The solids also cost less and there
will be a dollar saving in storage,
transportation and training the
crews to handle them. Some solid
fuels already in use include some
plastics, natural and synthetic rub-
ber compounds, nitroglycerine and
nitrocellulose compounds as well
as solidified boron complexes.
A tiny tube the size of a cigarette
filter tip which shows how long a
radio, TV picture tube or other
electronic device has been operat-
ing has been developed by the Ray-
theon Company. Simple to install,
cheaper than mechanical timers,
self sealed, and impervious to sur-
rounding conditions the device can
be operated in any position and
uses about the same amount of
energy as that generated by a flea.
The sun beating down on an in-
fantryman will be the source of
energy to power the world's small-
est transmitter-receiver built into a
soldier's helmet. Silicon wafer solar
cells used in combination with a
nickel-cadmium storage cell make
up a package which weighs less
than a pound, and can be used
both in sunlight and when clouds
and nightfall cut off solar energy.
Automation is overtaking even the
highly trained medical laboratory
technician. Called the Autoana-
lyser, the new machine can run
through a blood analysis in almost
less time than it takes to prick a
finger. The machine, which was de-
veloped by the Technicon Com-
pany, can be loaded with a batch
of 60 blood samples and test them
for sugar, calcium and urea in
about one hour.
The magic carpet of fiction may
actually be a reality someday soon.
Astrophysicists foresee the carpet
made of tiny closed cells filled with
hydrogen or helium, the cell walls
so light and strong that the carpet
would be lighter than air. The pro-
duction of strong, thin, single crys-
tals has suggested the idea and
lifting power could be managed by
different degrees of elastic com-
pression of the carpet's spongy
A miniature dry-cell battery which
is rechargeable and almost inde-
structible has been developed by
government researchers. Adaptable
to the transistorized circuits of
hearing aids, walkie-talkies and
portable radios, the tiny 1.5 ounce
battery has advantages of long life,
constant voltage and durability
which make it a really rugged
Didn't Mr. Smith defeat his own
argument when he criticijied
Gunn's Green Thumb? He said he
wanted us to stop stuffing our heads
with the irrelevancies of specializa-
tion and use our learning as a
guide to learning. What does he
want us to be, a nation of philoso-
phers? After all, most people who
are specialists are not stuffing their
heads with facts that are irrelevant
to their own particular field. They
are using their own special learn-
ing to further more learning on the
same subject and thereby learning
more than was known about it
I agree with Gunn that the spe-
cialists are forgetting the larger
field, that they should broaden
their horizons to take in more than
their own little field; that large
strides in one dimension are not
enough to compensate for no for-
ward movement in any other.
However, only through specializa-
tion and attention to the details of
a field of knowledge can that field
make any strides toward learning
more about itself.
— E. K. DeYoung
Becoming a statistic is ordinarily
laughingly to be shied away from,
but in this case you're welcome to
include me. I'm an avid reader
of science fiction, but never thought
much about why until you asked.
I'm a technical manual writer,
writing about such commonplace
powerplants as those destined to
lift some lucky pilot into outer
space one fine day — liquid rocket
engines. Thirty years ago I read my
first s.f. stories with rocket ships as
the theme. Today those dream
ships are only a step away. Which
brings up the point about my pres-
ent outlook on the subject.
Our favorite reading matter is
one of the very few types of fiction
left. Detective stories, love stories,
and most modern fiction is any-
thing but — it is hashed and re-
hashed actual experience dressed
up to look like fiction. But too
many of us are "sensitive" and de-
mand the word science be tacked
in front of our fiction. I think this
affectation has hurt us more than
anything else. Recent movies and
TV programs have been ruined be-
cause of the label "science fiction"
when a slightly different accent and
the removal of this label would
make delightful entertainment.
Playhouse 90 has put on at least
one very good program in this
category and didn't once use a title.
lead, or spoken word to indicate
that it was anything but good in-
teresting fiction. It went over
beautifully with the general public
who would ordinarily shun science
As to IF, I like the illustrations
from the cover to the little trade-
mark of Science Briefs. I like the
choice of stories, the lead captions
and the variety. I like the number
of new writers that you feature.
The old ones are good; but how
nice to read a fresh approach occa-
The paper is excellent and gives
a sharp letter, the lines of type are
even and very rarely contain a mis-
placed letter. In short, IF is a pro-
—Waldo T. Boyd
There are so many anomalies in
science, evidence points out that
science may not be science after all.
At least a system can be constructed
wherein all phenomena are de-
pendent upon the subconscious
agreements of individuals, rather
than upon natural laws. In this
view, we would see more magic
than science. But if anything con-
ceivable is possible, the social effect
of science fiction is to literally cause
the creation of new things. The
new thing must first be imagined,
then accepted by a number of per-
sons, then it can be built. In science
fiction we dare to imagine.
Explorations in parapsychology
are easily accomplished in the me-
dium of science fiction. If one man
ever knew the future, then it fol-
lows that the future can be known.
If one accident prone can cause a
series of accidents, then it follows
that accidents are caused. If one
astrologer can predict one true
event, it follows that there is a rela-
tion between planetary cycles and
human events. But if any qf these
things work because of belief in
them, we can engender belief
through familiarity and acceptance.
A correlation of one is not useful,
however, but you can determine if
a correlation greater than one ex-
ists. What other agency would even
look for such correlation? Very few
— Paul Mitman
Game Preserve was quite an en-
joyable story, but Rog Phillips'
genetics seem a little deficient. His
assertion that }4 of the population
would be morons if they were not
weeded out suggests that he is pos-
tulating a recessive anomaly. Fine,
but then he comes up with "nor-
mal" being the recessive in the
preserves. And if this is due to a
recessive "suppressor" gene which
seems the only plausible simple
hypothesis, then the impurity of the
preserve could not be so simply
weeded out as indicated! A good
story, and I liked it; but Rog
should check a few references next
— Nick Sturm
I read science fiction because
there are no limits to the plots.
Mystery stories and westerns are
always controlled and stereotyped.
The hero undergoes several hard-
ships, falls in love with the closest
beautiful girl, solves his problem of
either murder or bank robbery or
range rustling and the book is
ended. Science fiction on the other
hand cannot be stereotyped. There
can be no limitations; you have no
idea what the story will be like un-
til you have begim to read it; and
therefore it's an adventure in itself.
IF has the best reproduction, the
fiction is always well written, the
artists are the best in the field. The
departments couldn't be better.
The quiz is geared to an intelligent
adult and not a teenage reader as
most of them are. Science Briefs are
done with a scientific atmosphere
but can be understood by a fairly
intelligent layman. The editorial
7000 fantosy and science-
fiction books and bock-issue
magazines at 50% to 90%
under what they've cost you
before, here or anywhere,
while they last! LIST FREE.
7055 K Shannon Rood
is the most interesting in the field
since it covers a broad number of
subjects, and the letter column is
exceptional since all the letters say
IF boosts my contention that
most readers are completely intelli-
— Bill Meyers
K.V. Fletcher in his diatribe
against time machines has placed
himself in what to ray mind is a
rather ridiculous position. He
wants us to understand, that the
only time machine that will ever
exist will be man's own mind
which will carry him backward into
his own memories and no further.
He describes the author's uses of
enormous iiows of energy etc. to
put man into the future — all be-
cause he himself is so dogmatic
that he will not accept such a pos-
sibility. I don't know how old he
is, but I wonder if he wasn't one
of those benighted souls who
scorned the horseless carriage, and
made Fulton suffer under jibes and
jokes before he proved the worth
of his steamboat. Can his mind en-
compass Man's reaching the stars?
Or even closer to home, an arti-
Well then, why not a time ma-
— A. Pasquine
Metuchen, N. J.
The satellite question has been
answered. However, time and space
are two different apples, though
relative. But first, what is time?
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